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The famous wheat was absolutely unremarkable
during the several thousand years
that it waited
under the barren feet
of the men who scribed
and the men who carried bags
inside a tiny wooden model of a granary.
When the tomb robbers came,
they changed it
by taking it outside
into the chuntered light of the nineteenth century,
where it became amazing
almost instantaneously.
At first, it was maybe eaten by the dead.
Second, it was definitely eaten by the living.
They milled and baked it
and it was good, allegedly,
a warm, smooth bread
devoured by those adventurers
whose names themselves
functioned as their own résumés.
If it had been me,
I imagine it would have felt strange
in my stomach all day
and on to the next,
like the Easter candy
just past its expiration date
I used to fish from the dumpster
behind Sprouse-Reitz
or the accidental cobweb I ate the other day.
Both tasted as you might expect:
the chocolate so rich
I couldn’t stop until I fell sick
upon the jagged rocks
that separated Port Townsend
from Port Townsend Bay;
the spider’s thread
sort of like death sat down in an attic
and waited. I spit it out
about ten thousand times,
but couldn’t help but worry
about some equal and opposite reaction
that might become my fate.
In the nineteenth century,
it became fashionable
among the idle English
to pay to watch a mummy being stripped away.
After these events,
some exhibitors claimed
they had found ancient seeds
preserved between the bandaging,
and the myth persisted
for more than a century
that if planted, the wheat would germinate
seven ears to a stalk
like the corn in Pharaoh’s dream
that foretold seven years of plenty
followed by seven of famine.
Victorian poets used the idea
as a metaphor for their feelings,
of course, those old dusty feelings
they had long held inside themselves
but now were finally ready to
blah blah blah
in poems so unflinchingly terrible
and unsurprisingly wordy
they became curses to make us sleep
every time we attempt to read them.
As recently as the Great Depression,
religious farmers were desperate enough
for something miraculous
that they paid twenty-five dollars apiece
for mummy peas and mummy wheat
sold by traveling seed salesmen,
and then they planted them,
and then, I imagine,
they waited as they prayed,
their palms beseeching a changeless loam
that did not answer the indifferent rain.
All of this, of course,
has to do with resurrection.
We don’t know how,
but we want something to be saved.
Keats tried one way
when he took his living hand
and held it to the page.
When I went to visit him,
I took the train to Piramide station,
and it was so hot and quiet there
the air felt like a tomb
where August sat down to wait.
Here lies one whose name was writ in water
reads the famous epitaph
Keats dictated to Joseph Severn,
his friend the painter
who described so well
the daisies and the violets
that grew amongst the quiet
of that distant cemetery
where their graves would be
that Keats said yes
he could already feel the flowers growing over him
and Keats said, S—lift me up for I am dying—
I shall die easy—dont be frightened—
and soon stayed quiet.
After he died,
the authorities burned everything in his room,
leaving only the view of what was outside,
which is remarkable today
for the extent to which it is unchanged,
containing as it does the Spanish Steps
as they lead down to a fountain
in the shape of a half-sunk ship
that marks the place
where a real boat was left
in the center of the piazza
after the Tiber flooded in 1598.
When it comes to commemoration,
the great advantage of sculpture
is how it tends to outlast
not only what happened
but everything surrounding it,
suggesting a context
is that which rots away.
And if sculpture breaks,
it’s not so hard to put it back,
if not exactly in the same shape,
then close enough
to satisfy this desire we have
to apprehend the past
in one quick glance
and then to go walk slowly,
easy through our days.
In the evening, the water from each jet
fingerprints the breeze,
and I can’t help but think
how infuriating it must have been
through all those years of British occupation
for the Egyptians who schlepped crates
though the brittle wind
not to know what within them
was being taken.
When Tutankhamen’s burial chamber
was unsealed in 1922,
the Times bought publication rights
to the depiction of each find,
which meant it took months
until photos of the trove
could even be seen by locals,
as each negative had to go
all the way to England
before appearing in newsprint
that then eventually made its way back
across the Mediterranean.
Are you missing what’s important?
was once that paper’s slogan,
a vague cortege of men
filling its daily pages
with their tea-set supremacism,
their ongoing weaponization
of canes, etiquette, and croquet.
When the seeds failed to propagate,
those who had planted them
unlatched their pens
and tongued the nibs
and immediately placed the blame
on all Egyptians,
unleashing jittery fusillades
whose generic, dismissive hate
is just the evidence that remains
from what was likely a daily brocade
as they stomped around their acreage,
shooting intermittently
at anything that moved
if it happened to have a brain.
It’s getting late
in every day that I remember,
and bells keep ringing
somewhere to the west of me,
as I’m always pulled west
when the light is ending,
my eyes drawn to the blues that pink
like the day’s last edition
above the dusking land
and its infinite memoranda
of local histories.
If ideas don’t repeat themselves,
they die out, eventually,
and so it is with people,
who leave behind their flesh
a vague architecture
of things as they have been
that resurrects itself daily
into this myth
that we must be the inheritors
of a system that makes sense
and should therefore perpetuate it,
an anthem in our breath,
our bodies the again
to make it great.
Into this we wake.



Christopher DeWeese is the author of three books of poems, most recently The Father of the Arrow Is the Thought (Octopus). He lives in Georgia.




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