Hamid from Egypt

Hamid from Egypt
by joe cloyd
In the back stockroom
Of the downtown Safeway,
I worked with an old man named Hamid.
He was a PhD in history who
Was forced to flee
His own country…
We weren’t alone.
There were the cockroaches,
And the mice, and some knats.
And there were lines
And lines of
Of homeless people
With forsaken brows
And furled beards.
Of bag ladies
Without illusion, hope
Or femininity.
Of trendy yuppies
Who were overpaid
And smug.
Of gutter punks—
Dirty, stinking,
And unapologetic—
Or hip kids
As gutter punks.
Of party-time college boys
Looking to drink,
Fuck and spawn.
Me and Hamid saw it all.
The working types. The artsy types.
The hippie types. The average types.
The druggie types.
We put the cans in large
Plastic bags. The bottles were a bit
More difficult, because they came in different
Shapes and sizes. We sorted and stacked
Them on pallet boards
Like slaves
Building a pyramid.

0 thoughts on “Hamid from Egypt

  1. Not bad.
    I have to admit I don’t know how believable it is (a PhD who probably speaks arabic? Aren’t we in need of arabic translators?), but I chose to put my trust in the writer. I was left with one main question: why he was forced to flee (if it is because of a crime, this would make it more believable that he is stuck working at Safeway). You may also want to make more clear that the people you see (the homeless, bag ladies, yuppies, etc.) are not people you are working with, but people you come into contact with. I had to read it over a second time and just assumed that is what you meant.
    I do dig the ending very much
    Thanks for sparking up a needed conversation. I’m glad they posted ya.

  2. isn’t “knat” spelled “gnat”?
    This is ok- it’s interesting how the narrator of the poem has kind of the same perspective as JoeCloyd the critic. Bitter, detached, observant, judgemental.
    I do like the last stanza, though it would have been better if Hamid was a Jew. At least more poetically ironic.
    And -joking here- I don’t see how this is meaningful. Wink wink, Joe.

  3. Hamid is a real person, and one of the nicest and most intelligent people you could ever meet. He was around 60 at that time. And this was pre 9/11. I never asked him why he had to leave, but I did know — or more accurately, I presumed — that it could get medieval in that part of the world if one opposed the government. He did, however, really have a PhD in history. Portland, OR is great city, but it’s a real bitch getting a job there. Believe it or not, we also had a couple of certified teachers bagging groceries at one point or another.

  4. Joe Cloyd has given us here some very fine prose. But why are the lines flush left and ragged right as if the piece were poetry or its half sister, verse. Prose should never masquerade as poetry or verse. Unless, of course, one wants to deal in the prose poem, which is a little like poetry in drag.

  5. unfortunately, people who have earned PhDs from non-western nations are routinely locked out of gainful employment in this nation. Its an issue of accredidation combined with their reasons for coming here – if they’re recruited, gainful employment; if they’re political refugees, shit work. The only problems I have with this poem are the misspelling of ‘gnat,’ and the disconnect (for me) between firt and last stanzas – meaning I’m not familiar with why someone in a stockroom would be putting cans in large plastic bags. It sounds like they’re preparing skids for shipping, but its a downtown Safeway and I’d expect them to be unloading skids for retail.

  6. This doesn’t have any unconventional metaphors. I work retail and have stacked plenty of pyramids with close co-workers who have foreign PhD’s. We even called them pyramids out loud. I am kidding, of course. Describing customers is fun. Maybe re-write it from a customer’s point of view? It might be more challenging than a straight ahead recounting of childhood memories, if you get my drift.

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