Friday, September 12, 2008

Poetry Friday - Règne Animal

Having used up pretty much all of my GCN book reviews, I think I'll start posting some of my poems. I haven't written any for over 25 years; maybe digging them up and putting them here will jog the Muse. I wrote the first one forty years ago, when I was a senior in high school, and it was probably the first halfway good poem I wrote. It won me a second place in a regional-campus writing contest in my first year at IU South Bend, so that' s not just my opinion. I got the idea and the title from reading Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision, of all things; for some reason it inspired me to write about the Exodus from the Egyptians' viewpoint.

Règne Animal


This Yahweh is a devil, murmured Pharaoh,
holding his dead son’s body in his arms --
the little boy who would never wear the crown of the Two Kingdoms,
who would never again wade naked in sunjeweled waters
while the sun made his soft skin shine like gold;
the skin that now was pale and cold;
the slender limbs, once graceful as a cat,
that now stiffened as the grieving father held them;
the eyes, dark as a deer’s, now glazing,
until the father wept and closed them gently.


In the next room the women howled,
and scattered ashes in their hair, and tore their clothes
for the child’s soul that now prepared for its journey to the Western land.
Born of the gods he was, a god he was,
and gone to join his holy brethren.


A devil, repeated Pharaoh as he looked out at the stars,
and these his people are poison in his kingdom.
For who but a devil would kill a Pharaoh’s son?
And what but poison would bring such a pestilence upon the land?
In all the houses of Pharaoh’s kingdom there was lament this night
many young bodies lay like wood effigies
while the wails of their parents rose around them.
Dreams were smashed like blown eggshells;
lives had been rewarded in brass instead of gold,
in tin instead of silver.


Poison and a devil, murmured Pharaoh, his mind dark with pain.
The stars were small mean pinpricks in an eternity of blackness.
Rise, my people, rise, cried the demagogue, for we are freed from bondage.
And like maggots squirming in a corpse they rose.