Poem: On Looking at the Columns in the Temple of Hathor

On Looking at the Columns in the Temple of Hathor

What dim, flickering, ageless age
you speak to us--an ageless age
that changes in the mind of
the one who sees it. How many
worked for how long to make
these columns and friezes to tell
us what story? How much shadowed
labor in what heat and weather?
How many working here and how
many others to support the work
they did?

                 It beggars the imagination
to think--no outlets, no switches
nothing but the muscled labor of men
and women and beasts. No eight-hour
day and then off to be with family, no unions, no protection from elements
or random anger.  And yet all done
all to glorify a silent goddess--joy and
a mother's abiding love.

                                         What connection
have I now to what this meant to you
when it was new--when ground was
cleared and tamped and set for
the work of long years, when bright
blue skies and sun washed days pounded
harder than the hard hours of long toil.

How can I connect to what it took
to do this--to even draw the plans
for it? Me, a child of my days and years
who thinks an hour here and there more
than my allotted is fierce and terrible
toil, who retires to his modern- day
fainting couch when I step through
the door to greet the wall of weather
that pressed back. I cannot, and yet
the hint of cool reflection and vast
depth touches me across these years
and I think how new it is.

                                          Three times
new--when built, when sifted from
the shifting desert sands, and each
time a person comes to see it for
the first time. Your effort then has
seen your work stand to teach awe
to each generation.


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