The Departed


We were talking about Moses, and Osiris:
It could have been a game—‘things that floated
on the Nile.’ One was a slave
from a despised and petulant tribe
who grew up to be a lawyer;
one was a god, Isis’s lover, Isis the doomed,
the pitiful queen and dreamer and wife
whose endless tears flooded the land,
soaked the desert, and turned the Nile gray and blue—
so deep that her beloved’s coffin
could be floated out like a trinket, away to the horizon.
He would not return, not really:
Too much of him was lost in the division.

Twenty one days, a magic number,
until I fly like a quiet griffon
into the darkening sky across the Nile, alone–
out of Egypt, above Jeddah, over Makkah, home.
The river I see today is that river,
full of tears, running with disappointment.
There are barges, barks—nearby some children play
because they know Osiris will not come today.

While I wait she waits. She imagines
the days can be rolled out
like dough on a cutting board,
ever thinner, lasting until they are so thin
holes appear, and you start again—again.
There is always a new day, there is always Bukra,
days that can be made infinitesimal like silica
rubbed and rolled into eternity, regathered,
reshaped and rolled out again.

Oh, my Love!
The Worker of Days teases us into complacency–
whispers, tongue flicking, like the ancient villain,
that our murdered happiness can be put in baskets
for when we are old and restore us to life.
The flow of days and nights, a galactic trick
of lights made by the gods to have us think
One will always follow the other,
one is never without the other
—Isis and her Osiris–
That in the end, day and night will rhyme;
No, no it will not all go to black
–After twenty one days, a magic time,
Osiris will again be seen; he will come back.

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