Saturday, April 16, 2016

Seal Of The Second Millenium

"My wish is to see you, O lord of persea trees! 
May your throat take the north wind, that you may give fullness without eating and drunkenness without drinking...Pleasant is the utterance of your name: it is like the taste of life...
"Come back to us, O lord of continuity. You were here before anything had come into being, and you will be here when all is gone. 
As you caused me to see the darkness that is yours to give, make light for me so that I can see you ."
 ~Prayer of Neferneferuaten,
from the tomb of the lay priest Pahweh 

 Seal Of The Second Millennium

Ten windings round
and a blob of clay
with the shape of the soulbird
to hold it fast,
prayed over by white taper priests,
wicks of their arms slick with greased perfume
flickering in the chant heavy smoke

while behind the last door
the king waits in his shell
for journey's beginning
from below the rock hill

to the high back of Nut and the night's
soft descent, 
a chariot of gold to adorn
the road of her flesh, 
a team of ghost horses
to outrun the stars. Such
a journey once started
knows no end.

But for the seal breaker
the foul breath of Set,
the jackal eye before muzzle's gape,
diseased as the mummy's black bones.

Ten twists of the cord
and a last look through the dark
at the golden light
not meant to be owned. Life eternal;
the king that desired it, the priests
that implored it, the sun that
promised it,
someone else will yet have it.

The Nile kept back her gift
for ten dead years
one for each twist, and so
the new god was killed 

while the old gods laughed.
The doors of my second life
were sealed as a shrine
with the soulbird kissed upon my brow.
No more will my face 
be as the disc of the Aten;
the deep river of the necropolis
brings the last inundation.

~April 2016

posted for     real toads

Process notes:

The top photo by Harry Burton (source) is of the funerary seal on the fifth shrine of  the tomb of Tutankhamen before it was broken by Howard Carter and his team in 1923, untouched since the pharoah was entombed, three thousand two hundred years previously.

Second photo: "A relief of a royal couple in the Amarna style; figures have variously been attributed as Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Meritaten(Neferneferuaten), or Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun..“ via wikimedia commons

Third photo: The pharaoh Akhenaten and his family adoring the Aten, second from the left is Meritaten who was the daughter of Akhenaten. via wikimedia commons

Nut was the Egyptian goddess of the sky and the cosmos.She was often shown as a woman with her back arched above the earth. Aten was the sun god, especially as worshiped by the pharoah Akhenaten at Amarna.  For a short history of the Amarna period chronology and events loosely incorporated in this poem, see this wikipedia link.


  1. What an amazing bit of research that went into this poem, so much knowledge. I'm brought back to those stories of seal breakers and the destinies they suffered... sometimes we should let dead bones rest. Maybe the winds released of dust will wake the gods.

  2. The portion that gathered me most deeply was that of the descriptions of the chariot...that entire stanza. The poem as a whole unfolds the story so richly. Wonderful writing, Hedge.

  3. JOy, need to come back as in endless car ride and can't focus well-- I'll start with beginning though-- love the taper priests-- you follow through on that metaphor so well which is perfect for Egyptian figures. You have every bit of candle grease and flicker. Very cool. I've read rest which is striking and beautiful but need to come back. K.

  4. a chariot of gold to adorn
    the road of her flesh,
    a team of ghost horses
    to outrun the stars.

    My goodness! Inspired :D

  5. Your style continues in the same vein as the prayer, with a gravitas fitting for the ancient dead of lost culture. You have included the gods and symbolism in just the right measure. This speaks to the universal nature of humanities concerns for the remains: they become our treasures and we cringe at their destruction.

  6. Yes, the one that begins "to the high back of nut" is magic. I can feel that journey. This made me think, as Bjorn said, about the curse on grave robbers. Wonderful work (and info)here.

  7. "with the shape of the soulbird" really grabbed me.........I love "a team of ghost horses to outrun the stars". You told this tale so well, Joy.

  8. wicks of their arms slick with greased perfume...Love that line. There is much to be said about not disturbing the dead...I so appreciate all your notes. You are so talented.

  9. I enjoyed this so much,,,you take me back to be a witness,,,,

  10. You know how much I love when you take on history and myth and the now of humanity and turn it into your poetry. It's just wonderful how you takes us inside a sealed tomb and show us what (who) is inside and why, without ever having to break any locks.

  11. This is like a journey into the heart and breath of legend. So love the lines:
    'a team of ghost horses
    to outrun the stars. Such
    a journey once started
    knows no end.'

  12. Beautiful, heart-rending prayer you quote, beautiful, heart-rending poem to tell the tale. And it's a history that has always fascinated me,

  13. It takes a willful mofo to wind his own apotheosis up so tight -- what a charm -- what a knot (I wonder if it's still out there in the sailor's book). The laughter of the old gods in the Nile's ten-year recede? Dunno if that was in the myth or you added it, but it's employed here wonderfully back in the tale -- a self-invoked noose. A man might become pharaoh, but no pharaoh has clout, the ego, monomanaiacal-monotheistic mojo enough to disrupt dead heaven (save that for our iitty bytes). It's a majesterial recasting of the myth, focusing on the knot on the door and the charm's ironic twist that makes us wonder who knotted the old gods in the first place. Our knottiness, I suppose. The last seven lines are written on the lintel that only the dead get to read. What a surprise for them, eyes eager for eternal gold.

  14. Hey Hedge--this poem has such a beautiful sound --sounds--and it describes the vanity (at least to me) of somehow believing one could control such outcomes--the journey after death--I am so enamoured of just the aural qualities of it-the specific references, but it's a lot more than it's sound--the words make sense! Ugh. Terrible to be dethroned even after death, I think--though I feel a bit sorrier for those building the doors and the seals and pushing all the rocks around. k.

  15. You know, I think, that I love Egyptian things, and this poem is a pure delight as well as an account of an outrage that disturbs me any time I come across it. To break the seal that had been there so astonishing long, to barge in to someone else's sacred space and trespass all in the name of curiosity, shows just how devolved Empires can become. Any revenge wreaked upon the trespassers is just desserts if you ask me. The second stanza here particularly delighted me.

  16. I love this so much! Ancient Egyptian history and mythology have always been some of my favorite studies. You captures so well the mysticism of this ritual. The words were so beautiful that I had to go back and read it aloud.

  17. we are curious creatures. in both senses of the term. i suppose that for as long as the ape brain has conceived of itself, it's wondered what else is there.

    this pen feels ageless. ~


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats