Prose

In the Temple They Were Singing

I like the name-calling the most.

The sounds here are different, always have been. It is different in the slave-world. Sounds are not as rich here. They do not resonate as much. And the colours are not as deep, either.

I find myself envying them.

The colours in the slave-world are exquisite. Especially red. Anubis loves it the singular colour more than most. We often joke (though behind his back, he has a temper) that Anubis is to the emerald red of blood as flies are to honey … or as the Slaves are to honey: I can honestly see no difference between the two analogies. Of course, in the slave-world, no jokes are made of Anubis. Or of any of us, for that matter; there is only worship: sustained and agelong.

On my last visit to the slave-world, I noticed something, and I have wondered at it ever since the paltry, undemanding trek: I had only just arrived, and unlike the rest of my varied and sizably-numbered pantheon of a family, I do not prefer to descend upon the slave-world in animal form. No, when I pay visit to the Slaves and their world I simply appear as one of them. It allows for greater access: animals are not welcome everywhere, naturally: man and beast are often at odds, warring incessantly, despite their starkly obvious similarities, and their long shared lineage. However accepting of the strange and peculiar you are, the site of a crocodile at your doorstep is bound to trouble you. The slave-world is a funny place.

No, I do not transform into their animals, although I do transform into many a different-looking Slave; the variety excites me, and men, unlike animals, allow for greater inspection of the slave-world and its people: men speak to their own, they unravel like ropes in the presence of their kind, and bear all secrets as if the secrets they hold in their chests pain them, and they ache to palliate the agony of holding it within them.

Many of my kind, however, undertake the practice of appearing as animals. Many do, but I do not. Do not misunderstand my intentions, though, I do not resent the practice (in fact, I think the head of a scarab beetle compliments Khephri’s form and gives him an aura of likable dread), it is just a difference of opinion. Nothing more.

Speaking of thinking things more than they are, I feel the following must be asserted: when We descend to the slave-world, we do not transform into animals. That is a misconception. One of the Slaves’ many flaws is a tendency to exaggerate, to embellish, and, often to amusingly catastrophic results, distort truth in favour of a myriad of motives: be it deliberate dishonesty, scheming to attain power, scheming to absolve their own sins, or, simply, distorting it because they do not know any better. They lie, because they have something to lie about. We don’t, for precisely the absence of the same.

The truth is: no transformation is involved in slipping into the skin and hide of animals. We simply appear to be who, or what, we wish to appear to be. We simply are, and so, we simply become.

I am noticing that I have come to think like the Slaves. The others would not make this mistake – they understand the presence of an unassailable line between godliness and servitude, and do not dare cross it. Perhaps the Slaves have had more of an effect on me than I want, or care to admit. I am becoming more like them.

But I must hasten to return to my story, and I regret my severe digressions. Perhaps those are something else that I take after them now – these sudden changes in line of thought. Certainly, Isis would not flounder with her words, and lose track of her original objective in speaking, neither would Hathor or Nun dream of doing the same.

Back to the story, then. I had landed upon the slave-world, and, for no reason other than pure whim, I had decided to appear as an old man: exhausted, commanding a wooded cane and white-bearded. I decided against visiting the Valley of Kings (again, something my brethren would not do) and opted instead for a walk along the RIver.

I admire the River. The mere sight of it excites and enthralls me. It bisects the Country in its entirety, coast to sandy coast. There is an almost humbling joy in seeing the blue beast. Almost, but not quite.

Unthreatening and in human form, I walked along the Great Blue. Commanding the feet of men is a refreshing change – they are delightfully slow. Men travel at snail-crawl speed, and that I enjoy. One often enjoys the different and unusual, after having been bored by the tediousness of the everyday. Yes, change is thrilling sometimes.

It had been nighttime. I found him, eyes thrust above, looking at the stars. The boy, lying flat on the banks of the River, lay unmoving, eyeing the heavens. His brown skin was illuminated, but only just, by the moonlight; I saw him only in the way that things are visible at night: bathed in darkness, with edges and ends indiscernible. It was after a moment of observing the enthralling sight (you must allow my enthusiasm, the imperfection of the ordinary is wholly absent in my world) that the boy was disturbed.

He tried to swat the disturbance away, but it would again return moments later. It was the utter contempt with which the boy hit at the fly that intrigued me most. Such hatred. Such utter disdain. Such scornful unconcern. Even for my majestic sensibilities, the act seemed unwarranted.

No action is without reason, and nothing is just anything: one cannot exist as an unaffected entity in this universe any more than you can force a mountain through a keyhole. (I realize, yes, that I certainly can, but the analogy seems fitting, considering the Slaves’ abilities – or lack thereof.)

The Slaves think themselves above flies, I certainly can see no difference, of course, but this isn’t strictly an examination of me. Perhaps it is a primal need to feel superior; at least superior to something, if not to many things. Perhaps the Slaves take that after us, or it is the other way round – it is difficult to tell. Perhaps they want to be just as powerful. Perhaps they envy us for our power. I am not sure.

Yes, gods have their doubts, too. Though far less often, owing to a greatly clearer view of things, and, also, our uncertainty bears higher consequences for anyone involved. Their uncertainty culminates with confusion, anger, and many a useless debate, while our uncertainty manifests in year-long floods and great wars that last even longer. Although, over the years, men have also manifested their confusion and debilitating uncertainty in waging war, to great, long, bloody effect (Anubis was thrilled at a short Frenchman’s endeavours, and a spindly German with the most peculiar choice of facial hair put Anubis over the moon with his dedicated, passionate attempts). And in that respect, we are not much different.

I have shared their world with them for long, listened to their conversation, become the object of their admiration and worship, and it has made me closer to them. They are being assimilated into me. It does not escape me, too, that we are more like the Slaves than is coincidental. We, the gods, are simply … more endowed.

Having observed enough of the boy and the roaring River at his feet, I drifted towards one of the temples. I could hardly help it, you must understand. After all, in the grand, towering temples, it was my name that was sang, chanted, called.

In the temple they were singing.

I stood between them, as one of them, and my anonymity amazed me. I am not used to my presence being so blatantly disregarded, still less am I used to being touched by them, having them jeer and speak and innocuously brush past me with their frail skin and weak limbs and unassuming faces. I stayed long enough to pay witness to one more round of the jubilant prayer-song (and on one occasion, I even participated). Their voices filled the air, reached high to the clouds, as if spreading to all of Kemet.

Then, just as unnoticed as when I arrived, I left the slave-world.

I was on my way back to my home, and that of the Gods of Kemet. My home, where the colours are but one: that of the near-absence of all colour, and where the sounds are but one: that of maddening vacancy and emptiness, of the near-absence of all sound. My home. Where the gods tread.

 

Nehes, nehes, nehes,

Nehes em hotep,

Nehes em neferu

Nebet hotepet

Anekh brak

Anekh brak

Tu a atu. Tu a atu. Nebet Aset …

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Today I Forgot How to Spell Hate

Today I was stuck
My lips wobbled, tongue tied in a bun
I lost it
I lost the word
The sight of it, blurred; took form in
slurred speak; I forgot
how to spell, say, voice
the simple word:

Hate.

A wraith, it blended
like a whiff of smoke, except
this whiff
this screen of smoke
this translucent white shadow
passed out of existence,
I could see it none
I could hear it none
I could feel it none; but

Like all things better dead, it would return.

Because in a moment, then
I was reminded, taught again
To say I hate and love, and
all in between
I was reminded of it
of grinding teeth to angered grit
of boiling in a furious fit
of inside, containing a pit,
with the heat of a hundred suns
of becoming a dimwit
of shedding shards of serenity.
I was reminded by

a world that permits only such.

But it was never it
It wasn’t H, A, T, E,
that I forgot
It wasn’t the word
that escaped me
I simply forgot
for a moment
what it’s like

to sing the long-sung black song.

The Blackbird’s Lament

In a meadow green with life
With too many a rose to bear
At the end of a winding faraway road
Waits a blackbird; sunk in despair
For only when the reapers fall to work; it sings
Fills the meadow’s sweet air.

Now it sings:
Hers were bright eyes; they saw
Clear dreams of a shining knight
Silver sword in hand; right at heart
He who pulls the forces of evil apart
Riding a brown horse
A beast of honour and power
A silky mane; black as night.

A moment; then
Arrives another, in quick order they come
Its tiny chest fragments at the news; its back bent
And the blackbird sings again
For none else can sing a song
As beautiful as a blackbird’s lament.

 

 

I hear your voice in birdsong

Two-Word Name for a Poem

Not just a place with a bed and pillow

This is a maze
this; my life
endless and constant and
I’m stuck within it,
I have not a spool of thread or a light.

Another dead end now
Fall and pull at broken branches
Fail,
Break,
Mend.
Try
Again.

I see many faces glow
Meet many; they love; they
Live; think to myself
Are they like me?
Do they also have
what I carry in my chest?

Backtrack, retrace steps
Another route discarded; useless
I was wrong
Another route to be taken; now
A brand new road
Strewn with uncertainty
That chokes my sight.

But it’s beautiful
Like her brown eyes
Inviting; I know
I will find it; in the end;
where the road halts and I will too
One day I will belong
One day, I will stop; cease to wander
Cease to roam
I will find my home.

And it will be so; a home
Not just a place with a bed and pillow.

In the Wastelands They Wait

Dressed in her rivers of ice

The Warrior

Rode to the land of The Consumed

To relieve them of their misery

The price of serenity

Bears much.

 

They;

Those emptied, left for dead

Victims of vile intention

Dumped in the wastelands

The homes of those used,

Those broken,

Those wanted no more.

 

There they were to wait

To dwell upon their undoing

To regret, again, again

But no more, she will remedy them

She will end the streak; for now

She has arrived; to

The land where shed tears cut the skin.

The Cut on My Face

The warriors came

On their horses of fire

The roar of the beast chased me

Closer,

Closer.

 

I fell, my face shattered the ground

The well was broken

Black water only flowed

From the mouth of the life-giver.

 

They caught me

Their laughter filled the air

The sun was a blood-red as I walked home.

 

I know not who they are

The soldiers, the fighters

They have left now;

But I remember

Their footfall remains in the soil

They came to my village.

 

I have a reminder

It bleeds every day as I wake.

The Field of Weeping Roses.

      Story and legend tell of a story. A story of our ancestors. Like many of its kind, this one begins long ago, in a time different from this.

 

The Fire of White

      A long time ago, there were two kings. Their kingdoms lay side by side. For a long there time, there had been peace and trade between the two kingdoms. Then, the two kingdoms found themselves at the brink of war. Some say it was greed that sparked the animosity: one of the kings wanted the other’s kingdom. Others say it was anger: one of the kings had ordered the other’s traders be cheated, not given their due payment. Others hold a dispute of passion and love to be the cause. Its spark was created, and the fire of war ignited. A long war was fought, with both kingdoms sending their men to fight, and die in the heat of battle. Eventually, the war ended, with neither side claiming victory. The two armies were of near identical ability and strength. The blood of the dead, it is said, crept out of the lifeless bodies, seeped into the land and soil of the battlefield. The families of the deceased mourned, with both of the kings’ subjects killing them for having lost them their family members, waged war. The war was ended.

     Those of the soldiers who fled, managed to leave the battlefield with their souls in toe, were chased out by a fire. One larger than any of them had ever seen, the flames of which were hotter than any that had ever burned. The fire burned white. White flawless and pure as the clouds. Its large beams snaked up toward the heavens. So tall, they were seen from within the gates of the two kingdoms. It burned throughout the battlefield, leaving no part of it unaffected. The fire burned for many days. The night sky was set alight by the wildfire.Amazed, the elderly and children alike watched the blaze that ate away at the land. They sang.

 

 

The fire of white

Burning in the night.

 

Fueled by burning souls

Of those sent to fight

Those hearts strong and fierce,

Those smiles bright.

 

The fire of white

Burning in the night

Where the dark once was

Great phantoms of might.

Oh how beautiful is the sight

Of the fire of white.

 

 

One day, a bright spring morning, a call was heard from outside both kingdoms. The call was so inviting that everyone who could followed its sweet pull. The call was emanating from what was the battlefield where the war was fought. They followed the call to its source. What they found was not the barren battlefield of the great war they knew to be there, but a bed of flowers.

 

The Song of the Flowers

      They found an expanse of white roses, each round and the size of a clenched fist. They looked for who was calling for them, and found no one. The call came from the roses. They approached the flowers, finding that each of them was called to different flower. Just as they neared the rose that pulled them, the flowers started to sing. The song they sang brought them to them to their knees. The flowers sang of the dead. The flowers sang, each lamenting the death of a husband, a father, a brother, a son. They sang their names, moments they were happy and sad and heartbroken, memories they had held, dreams they had had. The flowers only sang to the ears of those who had known the man of whom the flower sings. No one else could hear the words of the roses. When they had finished singing, the flower slowly turned a bright red, gradually, drop by drop of luminous colour, as if being stained by blood. Once red, they say, the people could hear the flowers weep. The cries of the flowers shook their souls. That is the story of field of weeping flowers.

 

      The flowers still cry now. No one hears their song.