Egyptian aristocrats crammed the essentials into tombs:
henna, kohl, diadems, thrones, favorite cats, an ibis perhaps,
††††† robes, rings, grain, registries.
Space exhausted, they chiseled and painted afterthoughts
††††† onto walls:
Line after line of subjects bear fish, ducks, board games,
game, grapes, round loaves,
sheaves of wheat, wine vessels, sea vessels, friends, coffers;
††††† chairs, musical instruments,
surgical instruments, spices, horses, sheep, shoes—
provisions for afterlife.
I, who have trouble packing for a weekend—
How would I stockpile for eternity?
(We’re speaking forevers here.)
Would I want wine with every meal? Water, tea, beer, cocoa?
If cocoa, cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, milk, sugar,
a china cup and saucer, spoon, linen napkins
††††† embroidered with cherries.
(There might be guests.)
I suppose I could forgo the ibis, the cats, the throne
but how many pairs of shoes do I pack?
How do I choose?
(No afterlife weather reports in our paper.)
Slippers, sneakers, hiking boots, riding boots, pumps,
††††† water fins—
Should I opt for practicality or go with gilded sandals?
And when no inch of wall space remains—What then?
Are there ditto marks the gods will understand?
A celestial etcetera tagged on to the end?
Tell me: Is it worth the aggravation?
(No one seems to know.)
This poem first appeared in Buckle & (1999) and Nuesta Voz (2004).
Used here with the author’s permission.