In the absence of ushabtis, these plastic forks will grip
Our hand in the hereafter, whatever be salvaged or savored;
It’s not that we are weak, but they are favored
To carry morsels to an immortal lip.
In the absence of a Cobra God, this corkscrew allows
An opening to the East, shining and recurvant;
It’s not that we lack faith, but it is observant:
Quick for the Dead and hissing enough to rouse.
Tutelary things — how hard they are to select
By sifting through the unworthy and the elect
Whose relics in the back of the drawer collect:
Perfection glimpsed, the last of the Just, and just wrecks.
For lack of clairvoyance, these jelly jars will stand
As symbols of transparency and fruits of one’s labor;
It’s not that we’re idolaters, but Homo faber
Reduces space while galaxies expand.
NOTES for Students of English
Ushabti – In Ancient Egypt, a tomb figurine representing a servant who will work for the deceased in the afterlife. Ushabtis sometimes resembled miniature mummies.
Recurvant – In Heraldry, coiled, as a serpent, with raised head; in other contexts, for example in describing blades or fangs, curved backward or inward.
Observant – Here a play on two meanings:
1) attentive; and 2) maintaining religious customs and rites.
Quick – Here a play on two meanings: 1) swift, rapid; and 2) living, alive.
Tutelary – Protecting a person or thing; being the guardian deity.
The Elect – Those chosen for eternal life through divine mercy.
The Just – An allusion to the Talmudic legend that at any one time there are living on earth 36 righteous men who take upon themselves the burden of the world’s suffering. The Last of the Just is the English title of a novel based on this legend, Le dernier des justes, written in 1959 by French author André Schwarz-Bart.
Homo faber – Latin for “man the maker.”