King of Kings

by Tejas Ranade

Retrieved from a
scroll deader than the
sea:

I know none but me.
[I] watch the world falter
and flee: watch the strung
bow cr[escent] the sun and see
that Ramses has begun.
Under my feet they will
plant laurel leaves, dignitaries’
teeth clenched and muscles strained
one one knee till the axe [unknown
glyph] brings their eyes down
to me. From emptied [sockets?]
befo[re] Anubis’ breath hot
and sticky atop a shrunken
head, I deign my rule through all.”

Little-known fact: when the
Sphinx cries, her tears drip like wax
and hammer down on nomad hands taken
back like squatter’s sands, blankets of
air billowing through
an aged race begging
for the beginning. Back
when throats weren’t measured by the
blade of an axe, back
when a slap on a whisper-kissed
wrist wouldn’t cause me to
react like a fist against the granite wall,
graveled call ringing through the halls of
Ra, long dead but just gone. I was a priest
at his beck and thrall, his beast for the preservation of
a dog’s heat and pile of meaty gods conjured
by a people burned by liquid moon and
feasting on sod. Slow
I skinned them like lamps blind
and thinned heartbeats like
melon rinds dried under
a pyramid design;

Low I brimmed them
with the beer of life, mud and clay
running veins with rites of strife-
shades with spears
rushing waterbound down the Nile. Here is your
pharaoh — we built him in a night out
of whatever timber had not gone to light,
with auspicious of the of the yawning cliffs
that eclipse the sight of a valley holding
but bones. Here are your deities! Pups
bred from a butcher and grown for a glutton supper, the bread
and butter of a slum litter slumbering forwards like Yeats’ own bitter,
but older.

But a hollow Ra
bleeds too, green with
emeralds spilling from
the wound like the
weeds around my tomb,
tentacles gripped around
the carved-moon
walls that shone light
and smooth as
stone. In
fingernails and
crab shells it is
written of parched
bones below
an angry star,
for angry Gods have
brought me far, proud,
surrounded my
caravan like little
Hittites from the sand as
they bowed their
legs and took
to prayer, buried
heads in flowerbeds but
restless just the same.
And so
I slept,
prepared to wake.

That I would atone! Even the old one roamed
the world, hone a creamy palm
down to cracked stone and drum to himself softly
the psalms of Tyre and Babylon as the soldiers
stripped his lord down to marrow and
lit him on fire. That I would ensconce in the
deepest recesses a statue to take flight the stories that
speak of Moses the emaciated child! But I lie with truth
in a cold underground root, as dead as we had gone. It is gone
as dead as the keepers sky, spit and
thrown out with nothing but the flesh on their eyes
and hedge their pharaoh’s decaying corpse from
diseased trenches
to temple spires

… and when they rent me in two,
gravel crumbling and diamonds
stumbling out blind against the
sheen of the moon…

I still squat like a beggar on Ramses’ tomb
as he pounds the sarcophagus
atop of us
and screams for home.


Tejas Ranade’s poems appear in Poet’s Haven and he is working on his first novel, SoulSplit.


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