Hands can touch the page, Eyes discern and classify the script: Curl of a g, slant of a d, Forked ascenders on an oblique loop— The scripted mystery reduced To date and hand and place And accurate transcription. Illuminated letters cup A distillation of the world. Tiny figures illustrate Eve’s desire and Adam’s fall; From the corner peers a nameless face, Uncaught by any reading. One lacuna, one smudged word, And sightless freedom seeps into the page Never to be fully known or mastered. One page, one book, one Codex Mysterium Is undeciphered still; Vellum blossoms in my mind, And in the dark, there is one string Of ever-foreign words Inscribed upon my bones. Ushabtis stand serenely in the case, Arms locked in protection that avails No less in harsh museum lights Then in the shrouding darkness of the tomb. Their sideways eyes cannot be met, The hieroglyphs upon their skin Lie undeciphered still, Unknown and therefore uncompelled, Safe: judgment eternally postponed— Summoned by their spells But free from other voices. I would be an Ushabti, forever locked, My sideways eyes unmet; An unknown codex with a last and unturned page, Illuminations blooming into silence, My script forever meaningless, secure And I would be known, deciphered and unlocked My stone protections broken My last page turned, my final word read out The last curve of my script descried The words upon my bones pronounced Deciphered and unwritten on your breath— But for one final instant Lovely in your eyes.
Rosamund Hodge is a graduate of the University of Dallas and Oxford. She now lives in Seattle.