Portrait at Faiyum


she contemplates a different world
and balances her mind
between hot clamor days
and dark darker darkest tomb

poses for a mummy portrait
needful for her afterlife
artist laid upon a plank
with warm lumined beeswax strokes
catching her alive and pensive

she foresees her body wrappings
redolent with almond oil, palm wine
and pine resin for a sealing

mourns a desiccated body, natron shriveled
bereft of brain and liver…womb
identities … all canopic jarred to ancillary

tastes bitterness at the thought
of priests touching still-ed magic
from the even tempo of her heart

and now her pulse and sweat
and tear washed eyes
and eyes…and eyes

see through from being
and a slipping plane to plane


Bonnie Marshall

Artist Unknown
Woman’s Mummy Portrait, 70 AD
Hawara, Faiyum (Fayum) Basin

fayum coffin OIPKZBT01M8


interstice pyramid-cutaway

to think ancient Egyptian worldview
is to sense true otherness…informed, I
think, by happenstance of a fertile river
flooding lifebloom across a desert plane

no wonder they plundered Nubian
mines for veins of gold to shine like
sun on desiccated bodies resin wrapped
and carried through interstice to a realm
of dark inundated chambers

for they could think dimension…inner
outer…space of four triangles set on a
square into the air where depth is afterlife
and length is life and height is aspiration

Bonnie Marshall

Plate: Great  Pyramid Diagram by Charles Piazzi Symthe, 1877



It is chilled water stilled for warming in his mouth

to neither quench a need nor slack a present thirst.

Instead, he spits it to rust red oxide for a paled shade

 he etches onto limestone…death art…dry frescoed

deep within her tomb where he drafts windowed staging

for her afterlife…anneals gold blue red green radiance

on her ointment jars…her ankh…her amulet…with a reed

mashed tip he softens with his teeth.

There in drifting mote shafts he outlines a dream sphere

for inhabitance at some future flooding of the Nile.

He furnishes it angled…ethereal mid-air float suspend

into plane geometry of a desert math heedless

of the slipping one world to the next.

Bonnie Marshall

Illustration: Stele of Princess Nefertiabet

Old Kingdom Egyptian, 2550-2565