Isis: Dorothy Eady, 1924

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I was never this beautiful.I don't know if anyone can see how much moreI've become tonight, when the boys hired to play Nubians still the peacock fans, and another girl and I,

in simple white robes tied with golden sashes,perform "The Lament of Isis and Nephthys,"in the Andrew Long translation: Sing we Osiris dead, soft on the dead that liveth are we calling.

The scene represents dawn,and before the painted canvas riverbankwe are kneeling over the void left by my husband the God. Dorothy, my friend said,

how should I pose? I told herto bend as though we were mourningthe world's first grief, though of course there is no body, since God has been torn to pieces

and I am to spend an eonreassembling him. In the floodlampsshe speaks the text in her best elocution, fixed in a tragic tableau, and she makes no mistakes,

though she brushes the fringeof the dropcloth once and for an instantEgypt ripples. And though this pageant on the stage of my father's theatre isn't any more than prelude

to the cinema, I live my role,the world I remember -- I do remember --restored to an uncompromised luster, not a single figure defaced on the wall of anyone's tomb.

He was my husband,and I know he had to break apart,in the ancient world, and tonight, so that in thousands of years, in the intimacy of dreams,

the pageant's trance,I could reconstruct himbit by bit, like so many shards. Anything can be restored, even his golden hands.

There is no time here,where I am, on the stage of the Plymouth Theatre,reciting the lament the people used to walk from Thebes to Abydos to hear, rendered into English verse wrongly,

though the audience accepts it,as they always have, and are moved.

Copyright 1991 Bethlehem in Broad Daylight: Poems by Mark Doty David R. Godine

Digital Facsimile of Original Pages Bethlehem, page 19 Bethlehem, page 20

© Mark Doty