At the Met

Comic hieroglyphs read, “We are Divine,”
As omnipotence flows conveniently from ego:
flail and beard, the nemes, a royal apron,
The museum tribute of touch-polished toes.

Pharaoh’s mummy, painted maché and wax,
Lies in the next gallery with its closely guarded
Tomb-treasure, gold knickknacks
The teasing priests supplemented with beer and bread.

The Ka itself, on a solar boat, sails
Off to the cheers of Isis, Khum, Ptah!
Urgent bravado and wise guy denial
Trump comeuppance, curse, the canopic jar.

 

Postcards on a Windowsill

http://uploads7.wikiart.org/images/gustave-courbet/still-life-with-apples-and-pomegranates.jpg!Blog.jpg

1. Still Life with Apples and Pomegranate

Thirteen apples are arranged in the chipped bowl,
skins bruised and pitted, shaded from ripe-
red to green, all surrounded by shadow.
The pomegranate’s foreground, a symbol perhaps
of creativity or passion or time.  Perhaps not,
given Courbet’s candid realism and the bleakness
of Sainte-Pelagie – any prison, any oubliette.
A pewter coffee pot’s left, recessed
behind the stacked apples, odd positioning
for everyday use, but chosen cleverly
for symmetry of shadow, the sake of the painting.
Which hangs now in London, at the National Gallery
in Trafalgar Square, a tribute to the artist’s broad
importance and more imposing than a postcard.

2. Pharaoh

Pharaoh’s an inch high, one of a million
Figurines formed in identical likeness and lesson:
Sword and headdress, shoulder pads, apron…

His Majesty’s ready for the Met, the bass aria
Behold A God, Son of Amun-Ra,
Pumped by pedigree, pyramid power, the orchestra.

Nothing matches ancient Egypt for sheer
Side – empires of grain and gold, cheerful
Solar boats, burials with bread and beer.

Pharaoh’s unaware of the windowsill or pint size,
Mascot status in deflecting meter and wiseguy
rhyme, the fear in a pomegranate, postage, pride.

 

 

 

 

John J. Ronan is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry, 1999-2000.  His last book, Marrowbone Lane, appeared in 2009 (Backwaters Press).

Featured Image: Photograph of The Temple of Dendur (The Metropolitan Museum)

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