Aunt Serena's Temple
at Deir Al-Bahri
Hatshepsut, she, egyptian pharoah
built a house of wilderness, a temple
like a folded protein, laced left-handedly
into the cliffs of father-mother Nile,
into the red face of the desert.
Ladies with eyes kohl-laden,
danced with intensity necrotic
at her father's wake; and when he was laid
to rest, all the sands of all the deserts
buried him and she, lady of barriya.
Serena honeymooned on the Nile,
lived in Shepheard's and loved erotic;
ate fustuq in the year nineteen forty-eight
while the fellaheen discovered
hidden temples of long dead queens.
Slim girls and passage to Egypt!
where flows the Nile's aortic
water from the highly placed heart of Ifriqiya!
and sail a felucca above the cataract
to visit at Hatshepsut's palace!
Now she descends into oblivion
and becomes an Alzheimer stuffed
toy to plop without much thought into a chair,
to sit all day, slightly askew,
slightly atilt, within an endless hall.
The hieroglyphs of temples!
writ large on limestone walls!
Serena now reverses the archaeology of time
and deconstructs and un-construes the sacred
words, reburying the Temple.
Where has Abu Simbel gone?
Drag the Nile for poor Philae!
All drowned, all buried, like forgotten memories
of Cairo in the postcards of her desire!
Every face is photoshopped.
The Ramesseum that was Serena
receives a cup of sand a day
to bury it again, no more to see bus loads of tourists
with her kohl-laden ancient eyes,
she dreams a language again unknown.
notes:this is a poem on my Aunt Serena's experience with Alzheimer's. She had been in Cairo after WW II, having married an army fellow who had spent most of the war in Alexandria.
The image is the beauty of Hatshepsut's temple and all Egyptian antiquity is like the mind of Serena...and now we bury it into the oblivion of Alzheimer's disease.
Hatshepsut: ancient woman pharoah, who built the great temple at Deir Al Bahri . Deir al Bahri is usually translated as "northern monastery",but the name literally means "monastery of the sea".
wilderness: I read "bahri" as meaning "barri" , or "wilderness" - a pun
protein: the temple "folds" back from the Nile into the surrounding cliffs, as does a protein fold - left-handed or right-handed - like a biological fan.
kohl: eye make-up of ancient Egypt
barriya: wilderness again
Shepheard's: very famous Brit hotel in Cairo
fellaheen: poor working guys, shoveling around the archaeological excavations
Ifriqiya: Arabic for Africa
felucca: a Nile sail boat
Abu Simbel, Philae: temples rescued from rising waters, and some not
Ramesseum: a temple, palace, or even a large burial place of the Pharoah Ramesses.
Ramesses is the Greek form of Ra Ms, which is the name of Ra, the god, and the root "m(e)s" which means "giving birth". It also is the root for the name of Moses, or Musa.