CAI14: The City in Indigo


by Youssef Rakha

On the Streets of Cairo With a Phone: An Ongoing Project

Hipstamatic makes no sense.
In the idle grip of suspended motion—
endless traffic in stasis,
prosthetic limbs scratching against car doors—
what’s the use of predefined filters pretending to be the aesthetic technology of not much earlier times?


You want to play with the beasts.
Soul splashed on the asphalt, to dream your own dreams,
imagination feeding like ruminants.
You want to have a WYSIWYG square clear enough to see from the hip.

To hold the gadget upright so it seems like you’re texting in the glare. Lost in VR. Or,
from the man-eat-zombie purr of horny camels,
in momentary refuge.
Swerve past the subject with your eye in the distance, your scene contained, and—

left thumb on the volume control with the plus sign—


Drive-by photography for Inuits.

Windscreen fairy tales.

A thousand and one late nights, the stray dogs screeching and the light,

the light.
Don’t think of better equipment, now—what use with all these schizos ready to pounce?
It’s no fucking machine gun,
you could cry out.
But you know it’s not murder that scares them.

Sometimes you wish you were a tourist. A dustbin peeler in shorts.
A dude.
Police-protected galactic anthropologist
with a retinue.

Wish you were someone who doesn’t know just how resentful they are
of it, of you
and of a world where a sky-soaked face
framed in a bus window flitting past is worth standing around in the muck for.

With a real lens, with a 35mm censor and the space to use it, you could make exquisite pixels.
But how then would you remember the woe

or your own poverty?
How would you be one with this terror of the document?
Inexplicable shame of the voyeur’s pet,
hate-whoever-owns-something-you-don’t worms
quivering to the surface of heads so long deprived
they do it to themselves,
worm vapors touching your elbow
as you stop to photograph.

And so in puddles you seek reflections and a place to walk.
They’ll look away if you seem important.


About the Author:

Youssef Rakha tweets and shares his square trophies on Instagram as @sultans_seal