The Watchers

I see them watching over us. They stand high
on the rooftops of tall buildings, on the median strip
of highways, spaced at intervals, at the perimeter
of airport runways as we leave. Sometimes I spot them
crowded in speeding pickup trucks, submachine guns
at the ready, watching, ready to protect us from attack.
Oh, if you wave to them, you find they’re friendly:
they’ll wave back cheerfully, perhaps a little sheepish
to be watching you. But they’re still there. Our guide
explains: “We lose just one American, you can guess
what happens to the whole Egyptian tourist industry.”
Poof! We have this silent watcher who goes with us
everywhere. I noticed today what I missed before:
he wears a pistol at his waist, and smiles politely,
promising that nothing terrible will happen to us
on our journey. And so we come in gaping droves,
and ride past, in our buses and our river boats,
take pictures with our digitals and videocams,
while they, our watchers, never cease to watch.

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