Poems

The Golden Scarab Necklace

1

I return
from a language that knows me,
the mother tongue,
although our mother is no longer the same
... .... ...
I am learning the silence of your vulgar dagger
You will never recognise my face
even though you knew me by the sound of my voice when I was your brother
Our father’s inheritance is no longer enough to mediate between us
Now, nothing is left save the trace of a raven
..... .....

I take my leave
cloaked in the enigma of the language of Meroe,
with the force and clarity of a river in spate
Bad blood lies between us –
The strife and lies of corruption

2

Like Meroe, Kurdofal* has many temples
Fazoghli grants incense
Al‘Ais proudly guards the sacrificial feast
Stone glows
Pottery shines with the proud blood of prophecy

... ....

The boy fathered a sultanate
from the bloodline that fathered ancient sultanates
The glory of his ancestral banners
is that boy who fathered the ancient sultanates: kingdoms both impossible
and possible

3

The king in his pomp wallows in his bath
A mirror glints on the wall of miracles
reflecting a virgin, her perfumed lust, her desire
...... ...
To please my stud I dyed my hair with gold
I anointed his bed with incense and sandalwood

This is his night:
I take the scull of my pampered king
for my goblet –
for I am the golden scarab of this kingdom!

 

Blue and black faience and red carnelian beads, with shells pierced for stringing. The materials are typical of both Sudanese and Egyptian production, but the treatment, range and forms are typical especially for nomadic groups in the eastern Nubian desert. Placed with two Nubian pottery vessels in the burial of a woman, north of Qau in Middle Egypt (see ‘Traces of an Unknown Woman’). 1800–1600 bc. uc26013

 

* Now a monumental archaeological site, the ancient city of Meroe, near Begrawiya in central Sudan, was the centre of the vast kingdom that ruled central and northern Sudan about 300 bc to ad 200. Kordofan is one area of that realm, in central Sudan, poised in more recent centuries between the Funj Sultans of Sennar to the east, and the Sultans of Darfur to the west. In the Sennar Sultanate, Fazoghli formed the southern border region on the Upper Blue Nile towards Ethiopia and the sources of incense. Al‘Ais evokes al ‘Ais, on the White Nile at the western approach to Jebel Moya, a site to the southwest of Sennar, exca- vated for Henry Wellcome. Jebel Moya finds in the Petrie Museum include the jewellery buried with an elder woman, from the first millennium bc. As well as the Nile, overland routes such as the Darb al-Arbain (see Traces of an Unknown Woman) linked these southern lands to the Saharan oases and Egypt. These desert roads encouraged seasonal migration and trade connections between distant peoples, immortalised in the burial of a woman with Nubian pottery and beads at the mouth of a desert valley north of Qau in Middle Egypt.

The scarab or dung beetle is an ancient Egyptian symbol of solar kingship, used from about 2000 bc as the form for stone seals, which were also worn as protective talismans. Already by 1700 bc the kingdom of Kerma in northern Sudan was producing its own versions of these seals. A thousand years later, the palace artists of Napatan kings created new designs in both Egypt and Sudan, where young women were particularly often protected as if sealed by a sacred scarab - as in the Qau burial.

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