Sand (a triptych)
She rests or nestles in a niche between the Sphinx's arm and chest,
her weariness a holy glow. The breath that comes from her is: slow.
slow. slow. A bloom or foundling or her boy experiments with
breathing, small against her, proportionately slow. She shifts, a
tantraic wisp ready for transcendency or sleep and thinks as far as
glory takes her: to her rug, her tea, her flat white bread, the
curved pan she cooks it on; all behind her now. Will she eat again,
perhaps as someone else. Or has she. Will her donkey turn to camel
and with hinged flopped feet climb the face of ruined stone and rest
with her. It is the only moving thing. What sound would one more
make on altered rock. And would the sphinx awake from—what. What is
the sound her life will make against her. And will she sleep.
Everything a wonder. When her eyes have partnered for her deeper
rhythm s, the steadily cycling breath and blood, will it be a human
voice that wakes her. Will she drown.
Egyptians say, "Oh God, if I come back to this earth, please do not
send me back as an Egyptian dog." Then, "Oh God, if I come back to
this earth, please do not send me back as an Egyptian donkey." Then,
"Oh God, if I come back to this earth, please do not send me back as
an Egyptian woman." She reaches to her donkey. The square stone
houses of her village turn to face her mind—holes for windows and
door holes, empty of the screams they'd frame with hands if only they
Emptiness leeches the narrow valley of a place for her, resonates in
the nothingness the ancients held at arm's length: the silty silence
under wind where souls sift and feet settle, where she empties into
spaces still empty.
The largest part of Egypt is the dead, the living in the verdant ten
percent. Annually the Nile, plague and blessing, floods its narrow
plain and scatters life between the two great deserts. Someone who
would normally see may be thinking close to heart and wash away like
soundless workmen in the tombs. Thus everything not stone is sand and
eddy, a centering, draining whorl; the heart of living dust
sculptures, and whom the gods do not devour merely go to sleep.
It is a scheduled time for walking up and down the street and to the
corners. For finding trouble, here or there, and it is always there,
as it defines him now. Cold, coiling from the sidewalk, climbs the
statuary of his legs. For both a short time and eternity he remains
in the alcove of the bank building, face up and outward, feeling for
the first rays of morning.
Small and largest change the same, his wife and baby left him in the
middle of the night, taking nothing but themselves—or was it middle of
the day. All the same to him, he wakes from walking, talking or from
sleep, aware as for the first time. But has the absence always been
there or is it new. It bristles his skin, his guidehairs. Yet in
some way, not a bad thing, he now more Policeman. Superiors are
pleased; part of him on the run, crushed in the shards and shells of
the Fayyum, dodging, darting, pulling up isolation like a cloak.
Superiors are pleased. He has an agreeable sadness at tea; a loss
that peers like crystal where all see escape, an enveloping cape.
Less and more. He draws down deeply on his cigarette. Subtractions
come to him in tamed ways.
And now another day begins. Light splashes reedy columns. He stands
yet motionless, man on brick, acknowledging recurrent warmth; just as,
at the rock-cut façade of Abu Simbel, above the cornice, Papio raises
stone hands to welcome the sun god, Ra, who each day struggles to
defeat the equal gods of darkness.