The Ram God Khnum
There is another world and it is this one.
This ram’s extinct. But on the god
its horns stand yet. Each twisting curl
is lost in Nature, not on him –
since he’s not young. He scans the hall.
By his crown, know the god who threw
gods and men on a potter’s wheel.
Khnum surfaced from beneath the Nile.
He views his works with his ram's eyes
from some room in the British Museum.
It's cold in here; the crowd wear coats
to gaze at him. His left hand holds
crisp British air, as if it’s real.
The gods come calling. We do not.
Though that tongue's gone, its alphabet
compels the mind. Each choice we make
is patent. Gods are thus made up.
What they might want, we can't foretell.
We age, not them, and that's the deal.
In Egypt, where believers still
remain, the smoke of sacrifice
rises to Heaven. Is the work
Khnum fashioned lost beneath the silt?
you ask. Like birds, we greet the day.
We wish for something to reveal.
John Claiborne Isbell
John Claiborne Isbell teaches French and German at the University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley. Since 2016, various MSS of his have placed as finalist or semifinalist for The Washington Prize (twice), The Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes (twice), the Elixir Press 19th Annual Poetry Award, and The Gival Press Poetry Award. He published his first book of poetry, Allegro, in 2018.
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