therese broderick

LAST AFTERNOON IN ASWAN


Tourists standing at the edge

of an ancient quarry pit


toss their almost-empty

water bottles, de-strawed,


at a small brown dog lying

on his side, asleep, sick, or


dying. Not one of them takes

a picture. They already have


hundreds of timeless shots

of Old Kingdom mummies,


unfinished obelisks,

armed guards in the streets.


They signed up for this tour

as an easy summer way


to teach the children history,

Isis and Osiris, the lower


and upper Nile, east bank

for birth, west for death.


Together, all families learn:

climbing a pyramid means


tunneling through a tomb. Now

the youngest ones are questioning


which heaven to believe in,

raising from recent memory


those old, favorite toys

of their pet in the kennel.


They grow uneasy as the adults

wait for a happy ending,


as bottles in the dust pile up

near ruins of momuments.





WHAT COMES FROM SIGNATURES


Treaties and pre-

nuptual agreements,


birth certificates,

divorce proceedings.


Treaties and child

custody arrangements,


day care contracts,

purity pledges.


Treaties and soccer team

codes of honor,


college scholarships,

loan registrations.


Treaties and mottos

of Greek sororities,


then old boy networks,

job applications.


Managerial agreements

with new workers,


union contracts.

Treaties of the first


settled dispute, then

the second, then the third.


Retirement packages.

Wills and re-written


wills and testaments,

pre-paid funeral bills.


Do-not-resuscitate orders.

Death bed treaties


to repay all the parties

you cheated. By then--


too late for any entreaties

with the Devil.


He's already got

your John Hancock.