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Our felucca tacked across the river Nile

to Aswan from Kitchener’s Island –

with its well watered botanical gardens

and its straight boulevards of tall palm trees –

gifted to Lord Kitchener of Khartoum,

pre Great War, as Egypt’s Consul-General.


As we approached the east bank, out of nowhere

it seemed, a boy appeared along side us

in a small zinc bath paddling with his hands

and singing, “‘Michael, row the boat ashore!

Hallelujah!'” – the old slave song learned then turned,

with chuzpah and courage, back to enterprise.

“Please give him anything but money,”

urged our Egyptologist guide, alumnus

of Cairo and Yale. “We must not become a

nation of supplicants.” A fellow tourist

gave him a packet of paper handkerchiefs,

another some sweets. The rest of us

had nothing but money. “Shukran!” he called,

and waved graciously encompassing us all.

He paddled off. “‘Boastin’ talk will sink your soul!'”

I thought, cheeky beggar – ‘Your Country Needs You’!




© Copyright David Selzer

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