An Egyptian Myth by Donald Levering (Poetry Winner)

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Former NEA Fellow Donald Levering’s latest book, Previous Lives, was published in 2018 by Red Mountain Press. Eavan Boland selected his work for the 2017 Tor House Foundation Award. He lives in Santa Fe, NM where he volunteers as a citizenship tutor.

“An Egyptian Myth” is the poetry winner of the 2018 Prose & Poetry Contest, selected by Carmen Giménez Smith.


Plying the oars of denial

I’m not really waiting in the car for my son

because I don’t want to see 

his skeletal dwelling

He doesn’t actually emerge 

with doll-button eyes

walking as if underwater

You see, I’ve been transported by a recording—

Osiris is murdered and his body dismembered. Isis boats up

and down the Nile, piecing his scattered body parts together.

We’re not truly inexcusably late 

to meet with the attorney 

instructing my son

about courtroom dress and etiquette 

It’s not really my son sitting next me

who repeatedly dips into a poppy nod 

as the lawyer goes on

How to plea         How to be contrite

At last I’m back to the real story—

Believing in his resurrection, Isis scans the desolate shore 

for pieces of her loved one among the river’s detritus.

But some of that other must have occurred

Here are my notes on urine tests

and personal recognizance

More on plugging the holes in his story

Back in the car, my son bobs like waterlogged flotsam.

Where the river merges with the sea, there’s the smell of salt marsh.

The bore tide picks up driftwood limbs as the barge slides through starless fog