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The Story of Owadeen (Poem)-عوضين

In summer and at harvest time
We love to gather in front of the dukan
To sit and talk after a round of tea.
Some roll their smokes, some tinker with waterpipes,
And we look toward Owadeen.
The big talker.
We’re wearing our white galabiyas,
Some of silk, some of rough cotton,
Except Owadeen, who wears a suit.
He sports a hangman’s noose around his neck —
They call it a cravat.
You see, Owadeen’s become a Cairo guy,
Rubbed shoulders with tourists,
And people love it when Owadeen talks
About Cairo girls —
The ones with the creamy, light skinned arms
And the faces! Everything showing — unveiled..
The smell of perfume surrounds them
Unlike our village women, smelling of bread.
And he says they walk the streets
Hand in hand with guys — fearlessly!

Owadeen grew up with us
We went to the same kulab.
He was taunted: Owadeen, son of the gravedigger!
We used to tease him, saying,
“Your dad will get rich if half the village dies.”
And Owadeen, angry, would shout back,
“You’ll listen to me someday!”
When Owadeen insisted on going to Cairo
His father sold his only garatain of land.
Hunger gnawed at him and his family
And their hands were empty.
“It doesn’t matter,” he’d say. “My son
is getting his education.”
When the years went by
And there was no word from him
His father would find excuses.
“Learning is a difficult job, ” he’d say.

When at last, Owadeen returned
We hardly knew him —
A hat instead of a turban;
A newspaper instead of a hoe;
Stories about the crises in the world —
Syria, the West, Lebanon —
He had it all figured out —
Peaceful solutions to the problems of the world.
Owadeen had forgotten, totally forgotten,
That between the dukan and the field,
Daily people die
Of starvation, disease and oppression.

I wish, Owadeen, you’d never departed and returned,
Never left your old place in front of the dukan,
Because, like seed fallen on bitter ground,
Your life remains closed — unfruitful.

S.A. Kornas

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