Memphis

 

White walls

A hundred gates

And it takes all

Day

Simply to walk the length

Along the Nile

There the ships

Throng

From India and Greece

From Crete

From Punt

And the river slips

Past the water palaces

And among

The lotus gardens

And the incense trees

 

Heroic

The statues of the Pharaoh front

Pavilions where the Pharaoh sees

Himself double crowned

On painted walls

And lotus columns

With captive generals on their knees

And hieroglyphic calls

Upon the gods

To welcome

Rameses the Great

Into their eternal state

 

There is the sound

The ostrich-plumed

Flabella make

About his throne

As the princes kiss the ground

And the gold bowls of incense fume

And the silver trumpets shake

The ibis from the lacquered eaves

And the world is all his own

 

Like terraces

The temples rise

To the white escarpment

Where

Immortal air

Blown from the desert

Sings

With silence to those

Still living there

 

And morning brings

The princes and the kings

Tombed in electrum

Silver

Cedar

Granite

Their gorgeous meals

Simulacra foods in gold

Served by everlasting slaves

Simulacra men

And the great cold

Of death

Is warmed by a breath

From a simulacrum fan

 

But it is evening

And what Rabbi Moses told

Sometime in Spain

Of the walk he took

All day

To escape

The ruins

This city being then

Thousands of years old

Happened late

In the afternoon

His travel book

Bearing a date

About fourteen hundred years ago

 

In the shadows

Which fall

From that white escarpment

The six broken columns glow

And a childlike sphinx

Looks

From a lotus grove

 

And there is also

Rameses the Great

Lying like a stone ship

Stranded

Around whom visitors walk

And that is all

 

As night comes

The children cry

In the dust

Begging for food

They are links

With the white city

Of a hundred gates

 

And in the desert rock

A prince or two

Waits

For discovery

The air

There

Is thin and clear

Silence you can hear

Singing

In the night