Egyptian aristocrats crammed the essentials into tombs:
henna, kohl, diadems, thrones, favorite cats, an ibis perhaps,
robes, rings, grain, registries.
Space exhausted, they chiseled and painted afterthoughts
Line after line of subjects bear fish, ducks, board games,
game, grapes, round loaves,
sheaves of wheat, wine vessels, sea vessels, friends, coffers;
chairs, musical instruments,
surgical instruments, spices, horses, sheep, shoes—
provisions for afterlife.
I, who have trouble packing for a weekend—
How would I stockpile for eternity?
(We’re speaking forevers here.)
Would I want wine with every meal? Water, tea, beer, cocoa?
If cocoa, cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, milk, sugar,
a china cup and saucer, spoon, linen napkins
embroidered with cherries.
(There might be guests.)
I suppose I could forgo the ibis, the cats, the throne
but how many pairs of shoes do I pack?
How do I choose?
(No afterlife weather reports in our paper.)
Slippers, sneakers, hiking boots, riding boots, pumps,
Should I opt for practicality or go with gilded sandals?
And when no inch of wall space remains—What then?
Are there ditto marks the gods will understand?
A celestial etcetera tagged on to the end?
Tell me: Is it worth the aggravation?
(No one seems to know.)
This poem first appeared in Buckle & (1999) and Nuesta Voz (2004).
Used here with the author’s permission.