King of Kings

by Tejas Ranade

Retrieved from a
scroll dead­er than the

“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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