On the bus we’re headed through the desert for the Red Sea,
crossing a staggering, desolate landscape.
The heat outside withers you on contact, seems to suck the moisture
from you as if you were porous as a sponge.
Inside the bus we thrive in the air-conditioning as tourists pay to do.
Occasionally we pass people, one here, two there, doing something,
digging in the sand making planting rows they pray over
and water wisely, it must be, to see anything green struggle up.
And then there are bursts of date palm groves
between the stone and sand and gas station divides,
I guess what could be called oases for their great, green swaths of shade.
There are some 115,000 mosques in Egypt, from vast to very small,
and a few of these are disbursed along the highway for use by motorists
who find themselves in need of a convenient place to pray.
Up ahead I spot a marvel, another green oasis looking out of place.
As we drive closer I can see it’s some kind of crop flourishing.
The driver doesn’t point it out for any special reason
as he has with named rock formations or grand construction projects.
We pass the field and I see, in khaki shorts and a soiled white blouse,
a little girl holding some kind of hoe, bending over at the near edge of the field.
She rises as we pass and waves to us.
Maybe no older than 10, she’s slender
as the field of reeds behind her is slender in each small part
making up the whole of this great rippling green sea
rolling soft and calling cool breezes out from the heat.
The circumference of her wrist might measure four inches barely,
but from the beaming, brown face she shows us I can see
the one around her heart is four times more than that
and four times more again for all she lights up
this daunting land laid out under the blazing noonday sun.