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14 Jun 2022

Richard
Manly Heiman

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Full Moon

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Jun 29th

Theban Holiday

May 30th

Inspired by Nebamun Hunting in the Marshes

(c.1350 BCE)

               I float

               like waterfowl

               gripped by twig legs,

               weaponized

               by you, father,

               conquistador of birds,

               colossus of reed boats.


               Look—a tomcat dances,

               bites on evening air

               heedless of you.

               He's an orange familiar

               to your sorcery

               between the sedge and sky.


               I slink in shadow

               beneath your legs

               for shelter—

               I know what follows

               behind in the rushes.

               Eternity.

               Snaring you, me,

               and a jeweled queen.


               But fat black perch

               with agate eyes don’t care

               for ka and ba.

               They know a deep world,

               and that’s all. If only

               you’d glance down, father.

               You’d be afraid too.

Behind the poem...

The fresco of Nebamun Hunting in the Marshes speaks to me of immortality – for here is Nebamun, shown enjoying a favorite pursuit in the afterlife. Yet while his figure dominates the scene, the more poignant character in the scene is the daughter, who becomes the speaker in the poem. Seemingly sheltered beneath her father's form, she is looking at ... what? The approach of eternity? For me, there's a curious opposition here between perch and girl; between pure, ephemeral physicality, and a yearning for existence beyond this life. It amazes me how such a painting, at least 3,000 years old, can assume new meaning for an observer today.