ISIS: DOROTHY EADY, 1924 - H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) Poems

 
 

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ISIS: DOROTHY EADY, 1924

  I was never this beautiful.
I don't know if anyone can see how much more
I've become tonight, when the boys
  hired to play Nubians still the peacock fans,
    and another girl and I,

  in simple white robes tied with golden sashes,
perform "The Lament of Isis and Nephthys,"
in the Andrew Long translation:
  Sing we Osiris dead, soft on the dead
    that liveth are we calling.

  The scene represents dawn,
and before the painted canvas riverbank
we are kneeling over the void
  left by my husband the God.
    Dorothy, my friend said,

  how should I pose? I told her
to bend as though we were mourning
the world's first grief, though of course
  there is no body, since God
    has been torn to pieces

  and I am to spend an eon
reassembling him. In the floodlamps
she speaks the text in her best elocution,
  fixed in a tragic tableau,
    and she makes no mistakes,

  though she brushes the fringe
of the dropcloth once and for an instant
Egypt ripples. And though this pageant
  on the stage of my father's theatre
    isn't any more than prelude

  to the cinema, I live my role,
the world I remember -- I do remember --
restored to an uncompromised luster,
  not a single figure defaced
    on the wall of anyone's tomb.

  He was my husband,
and I know he had to break apart,
in the ancient world, and tonight,
  so that in thousands of years,
    in the intimacy of dreams,

  the pageant's trance,
I could reconstruct him
bit by bit, like so many shards.
  Anything can be restored,
    even his golden hands.

  There is no time here,
where I am, on the stage of the Plymouth Theatre,
reciting the lament the people used to walk
  from Thebes to Abydos to hear,
    rendered into English verse wrongly,

  though the audience accepts it,
as they always have, and are moved.

Copyright 1991 Bethlehem in Broad Daylight: Poems by Mark Doty David R. Godine