Procession of Minor Deities – British Museum

A gallery away I found how sand
and silence sound. A pharaoh waits in there
his soul within the scales Anubis holds.
Then, looking down millenia that stand
between us and that scale-and-judgement day
at  Ra receiving
homage from the gods who have the cold
exacting task of weighing up a soul,
I left believing
that the faces of divinities that bring

that king to judgement there were carved between
the first few turnings of the world. But these
are gods to nod to, gods to treat with due
respect of course but gods of now, who’ve seen
how daily things are done, who heed a plea
to Ptai for easing
hearth-side births, to Thoth for guidance through
the quiet dying mortal people do
content in leaving
greater gods to weigh the fate of kings

or scull their gilded soul-boats through the sky.
And here they supervise a river’s rising.
Although this halted retinue remains
at rest between two footsteps hindered by
my being here they’ll move on when I leave,
the singers leaning
forward with the drummers. Chants contained
in silence for a stride will rise again
and sistra weaving
patterns cast in shadows start to swing

through morning sunlight taking up the slow,
drum-punctuated rhythm moving down
to Memphis on a journey that began
five thousand risings or a step ago.
Within these ageless, hand-high deities
years lose their meaning.
Touch these effigies and touch the man
who made them yesterday he stands
as near as breathing
and watches gods live on in timeless things.

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