Crumbling from the day of his birth
He sucks salt from the ancient sea bed
Skin cells flake and slough, become
Sphinx dust under our feet, Sphinx dust
A fine ash that runs through our hands.
Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, all in turn
Bolstered its flanks with mighty slabs
To hide the furrows, hold old age at bay.
I will not wither, will stand my ground
Almost finished, they deserted me
And the sacred machine that is Giza
Starving men could not fulfill their pledge
Who desecrated that regal visage?
Old myths accuse Napoleon, but he
Did not cause it, nor his men, his guns.
Another wrecked the noble nose,
Leaving chisel marks, a recent find.
An ancient historian wrote of the loss
Three hundred years earlier, before
Napoleon planted his boot on Egypt's neck.
My beauty flawed, my body again hidden
They marveled still, fought for my favor
In strange tongues with strange weapons
Made me famous in strange lands
Modern man brought to light this crime,
Perhaps caused by a furious grudge,
Perhaps left unpunished, we find no record.
If punished, a terrible death for such affront,
Entry to the afterlife forbidden by Horus,
Who in the way of old gods would demand a
Terrible martyrdom, a tortured death
No understanding or care for the why.
Cruel rogue, how you screamed
Where was your zealotry then?
Where was the foreign god
Too powerless to save you?
And only a Pharaoh could command
The sacrifice of thirty men, and lions, too,
Buried there, condemned to serve him forever.
Did all thirty men's hearts believe his creed
Enough to give their lives, to suffer so?
Did they watch as each in his turn
Came to his brutal end, made his
Untidy trek toward eternal servitude?
I saw them die, quick and clean
They served us well, these spirits
Living in men who try to save me from
Sands and fumes and crowds
The gods of the pyramids have the
Heads of animals and bodies of men
The Sphinx has the body of a lion
For strength and courage
Like Ruti, the old double-lion god
And the head of a Pharaoh
For intelligence and cunning.
But which Pharaoh, we ask?
I am the soul of Pharaoh
Thousands worshipped my cult
Built smaller sphinxes, though
None that eclipsed me
Khufu? The face mirrors his only statue,
A tiny figure housed in Cairo still, has the
Same square face, sour mouth, staring eyes,
A beardless Pharaoh like the Sphinx, but no
We found telling grooves, where once a
Beard was set, found stolen shards in London.
Did it suffer the same mundane fate as the nose,
Was the royal beard smashed by a vandal?
My cobra too, my sacred emblem gone
From my great headdress that
Tutmose painted so bright in
The colors of rainbows I used to love
Some say it is Khafre, Khufu's son, who maybe
Favored his father. He built his pyramid nearby.
The sun shines in a holy line from
The Sphinx to the pyramid, whence Khafre's
Mummy traveled from temple to mausoleum.
The debate rages on, Khufu or Khafre?
Do the old ghosts laugh at our conceits,
This perceived identity crisis of mummies?
At the equinox our shadows merge
Khafre's pyramid and mine
A time my spirit wanders the land.
We do not laugh, we judge
The enigma snagged dreams of poets and kings,
Seated the Sphinx deep in mankind's lore.
But what was this icon to its builders,
The masses who dug a massive trench
Leaving a great knoll to be carved, reverently?
Alternate striae of hard stone and soft
Striped now, soft blocks more worn than the hard,
Eaten by eons of fierce desert winds
Windstorms abrade me, devour me
The hungry desert lies in wait to
Swallow what she is loathe to excrete
Though what she swallows she saves
One hundred carvers toiled for three years,
Chipping away with copper tools heated
To red-hot then beaten smooth and cooled,
Also stone hammers bound to wooden staves.
They say it took a million hours and an army
Of forgers and fetchers and carriers,
Minions who broke their backs without question,
An act of devotion to their god-king
They worshipped us, died for us
Not slaves, men well tended and fed
Privileged and skilled, chosen
Honored for sacred duty
The Sphinx Temple had twenty-four pillars
One for every hour of the day, statues, too.
It hosts the sun risen in the East as it sails to the West,
Its rays an arrow pointing the way to Khafre's tomb.
Old symbols, old ideas Egypt's sons cast off,
Ideas that ran their course, cults that
Ran through the hands of time like Sphinx dust,
Replaced by other compelling dogmas.
My temple a ruin, I still harness the sun
For Giza's sons so they may live for ever.
I will always stand here and watch
Watch and wait for our rebirth
What did it mean to those who came later,
When the old kingdom collapsed and
Giza became an abandoned cemetery,
Forgotten, its glory mislaid, somehow?
The desert almost swallowed the Sphinx
Buried it up to its neck for one thousand years,
Men left it unfinished, forgot their promise,
Left their sacred icon to the desert's embrace.
She hoards and saves, keeps her prey
Veiled from the eyes of lustful men
Like a harsh father keeps his virgin
Daughter pure for her next owner.
A stela now sits between the lion's paws
And tells of the hero who unearthed it.
Pharaoh's masons carved grand edicts into stone
When he wished to speak for posterity
As heroes and kings and prophets love to do.
Tutmose ordered shielding walls, merciless mining
Another heavy labor for a Pharaoh's reward,
A promise of life eternal, but for him alone.
My shadow offered a young hunter respite
From Ra's fiery fury. I lulled him to sleep,
Entered his dreams, promised him the world.
Tutmose heard, obeyed, he gave me my due
Horus sits enthroned on the horizon of the
Stela of Tutmose, guarding the entrance to
The afterlife, the eternal life promised to one
Who saved this monument, already ancient
Saved the Sphinx from the hell of obscurity.
Tutmose unveiled its leonine majesty and
Colored it bright, brought it to light, Egypt, too.
A smear of blue paint still clings to one ear.
I led them to Khafre's ebon statue
Long slumbering in the sands
They see it now, they see our likeness
The shining bright beauty that was ours
The riddle of the Sphinx lies in plain sight.
Man, beast and god, a divinity
Carved from the desert, lost and found,
A vast monument to conceited splendor
Built by common men's labor,
And still turning to dust,
The grand faith that spawned it
Demoted to quaint curiosity.
Common men always adored me
But they are inconstant.
Immured again, so few cared
Men's hearts do not listen.
Giza was verdant once, before
The rains moved south, north, south
The old kingdom scoured by wet and dry
Now only dry. The rains may turn again
To the north, rest here awhile, and wait
Will Pharaoh come again? And then,
Will his gods demand their due?
Watch Re at the equinox and see how
My paws hold his offerings to Horus
Can you stop time forward or back?
Many tried and failed, all cunning, no wit
Listen to me! Preserve me, save yourselves.
Our time will pass through here again,
Our soft green land will beckon back the ancients
I watch and wait, for patience and time
Are on my side.