Some things I do not know.

April 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Why did my parents name me Cairo? I do not know. They lived in flat Eastern European lands, long green fields edged with the deep pine forests, full of wolves and deer. They went to church and ate thick bread and cold meats. Fat, filling dumplings boiled while the Earth was freshly turned on our farmlands humming with wild bees and bird-song. They had not been to Egypt, but maybe they had seen pictures in a book, and thought it marvellous and exotic, the air full of spice and ancient magics.

I lie.

My parents did not name me Cairo. They named me something traditional and Catholic and solid. A good, simple name long ploughed into our homeland by time and Faith. I named myself Cairo, after I read the tales of Isis and Horus and Set, and pored over those dynasties revered for so long as the living Gods, the reborn Sun residing in our human flesh. I imagined for myself the long, baking streets, the cool palaces, great Royal boats adrift on the Nile. Those artisans who carved great faces into the breathing rock, the complex picture-language, the bright colours on tomb walls hidden deep in the hot earth. I have always been fascinated by these intelligent, ancient cultures. I suppose I may have named myself Inca or Akkad or Minos, but Egypt was always my first, childhood love, and I could not name myself Memphis or Giza without much laughter.

After I came to England, I draped myself in fire, reinvention, and rose from the fine cloak of ashes a new person. A poet, a painter. I think sometimes that my blood is paint and ink, my bones paper and canvas. I was no longer the sun-blushed farm hand, eyes empty and beast-contented as the cows, dedicated to toil, earth caked on my limbs; but the artist whose trapped soul had writhed and yearned in me since infancy, and longed to leap back to the stars, and dance with the horizon.

Some things I do not know. Why my parents were not blessed with the children they desired to pull calves from their mother’s bloody mysteries, or turn the fruitful soil. They praised God for the miracle of my conception, and cursed Him, quietly, for the absence of other babies, and the wayward faerie child I became. I do not know which one of them was barren, perhaps I really was a miracle baby, or perhaps the explanation is more mundane and a lot less holy and involves the postman. Either way, I am most glad to be here.

I do not know how I ended up in this little happy house of other artists. More poets and singers and musicians, and people interested in herbs that heal, and in magic circles, and planting new trees. Who camp out by the giggling river with wine and cigarettes, and who roast fish on beach fires, and swim naked in the sea at dawn, when the water still reflects the stars and pale moon so that they are bathing in space. I do now know how I came home. I can only think that I must have been guided by whatever God is – for although I do love the Lord Jesus, I am not the Catholic any longer – and that He took my trembling hands, and walked side by side with me along the sands of my life.


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