1. The living
The women in slender jeans,
men with cellulars hanging from belts,
seek mystery in distant objects from life
alien as Mars, as close as sweetness on the finger.
Drawn in to sensuality by delight of form and stone
and incomprehensible paint. I think they see
what they want to see.
Their thoughts as two-dimensional as the glyphs they cannot read.
Entranced by the freedom to see their lives somehow different
and shaped by time. Vaguely stunned
by how much work time destroys.
Perhaps reflecting that sense of deadness
they fight in their jobs and lives.
Dreaming themselves into an age,
they are torn by desire's thrust and joy's release into the wet
urn of night, taking in
the fullness of the dream, thinking it oneness.
The inevitable loss
and separation from it. And still
going on. Seeking shelter, warmth,
the stability of things to pull strength from loss,
to die with a sweet taste in the mouth, not bitterness.
And that lasting image that a family album will not
capture nor video record.
2. The dead
Heads and bodies awe-filled, agog, worshipping things as they are.
Prayerful in one desire: to people worlds
with juice that engorges, for blood and sperm brought to bud and bloom,
for the herb that raises from death to life.
Cities of death
built to operate in a world beyond shadow.
Monumental design, and dream beyond change or decay.
Ultimate and irrevocable longing, with each command obeyed and
each demand fulfilled to satiety. (My horror is imagining
someone's desire shaping a world so absolutely.
Without remorse or regret,
without being broken by death.)
Beauty born along the banks of famine and extinction.
Soul and sensuous arch of the human shape. Lovely upward turn
and quivering muscle in a smile. Broadness and outline
of shoulder blades
evince the craftsman's care and subtlety.
Captures our eye's delight,
while the craft cheats the careless observer
with a simplicity that evokes unconditional response,
the surrender to form and its emptiness.
Leg pushed forward and disengaged from stone.
Hand raised in strength.
Glance measuring millennia.
Gestures austere and true as trust.
That block of gneiss or alabaster from which they emerge.
Transition from muteness to speech
or nothingness to being? Or rather
a mute testament
to the invisible membrane separating us from
our desire for immortality?
This beauty is hard and firm as stone and the mystery
of wheat fields and mountain deserts where life will not end.
And I think of spending a lifetime
immersed in the holiness and trembling duty of my work
chiseling stone to ensure that a man who is not a man,
a god, will thrive in the next world.
Nile waters boiled with crocodiles, dead bodies, panic,
and the year's harvest
when the tables were dense with food. Goddesses
with liquid hands filled the elegant dish.
Phallus and vagina,
breast with life-giving milk,
empire of the hunter,
the fruitful pharaoh,
he whose word
moored the sky and brought order
to chaos. Brother creator.
He was the taste of food to the starved
tongue. He took away gnawing hunger and fear of bony bodies
in the wilderness. He broke
the lion's jaw and ran down the antelope.
There is terror in what we do not see. Elusive
beneath the victor's beauty
and pride. His visceral disgust
for the conquered who eat dust and grovel before the knife
unleashes their blood and soul into the bowls. Broken
arms and hands roped behind.
Their forms on each side
of the funeral gate attest
to his cruelty and merciless spirit.
As do faces staring from the base of stone door
jambs on which the empire hinged.
Words in limestone concretize the dream and quell
nightmares. Murder demons
and disease. They compose the magic body and lead it
through the maze of that parallel world to time.
Word as sustenance. Food to soul
like water to wheat,
fodder to cattle.
Cataloger of balms, linen,
and eyeliner, they testify
to the offeror's sincerity.
Even pharaoh wants to scratch
an open papyrus scroll in his lap.
His eyes open to the unseen. Gateway
to that world of
(c) copyright 2011 Charles David Miller. All rights reserved.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Egyptian Exhibit, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999
1. The living