Today I went to the Herbert Museum, to have a look at their “Secret Egypt” exhibition. As it turned out, it was pretty good, in spite of its being quite small, so I’d heartily recommend it to anyone living in the Coventry area. One of the nice things about going to see the exhibition was that it provided me with ample material for a NaPoWriMo poem, and what was especially nice, was that it fitted extremely well with today’s suggested prompt: ekphrastic poetry. Now, I’ve never done this kind of thing before, but it was pretty fun to write, to be honest. At least it made me look at things in a different kind of way…
I probably would have chosen something slightly more macabre as source of inspiration, but, disappointingly, I was not allowed to take any photos inside the exhibition gallery. So I’ve finally decided for this portrait of Pharaoh Akhenaten, “borrowed” from the Secret Egypt exhibition website:
I’ve always had a thing for mysterious and rebellious Akhenaten, who just had to have everything his own way. On the exhibition website, the artefact is described as:
This is one of the finest surviving portraits of the Pharaoh Akhenaten. It was discovered in the ancient city of Akhetaten by British archaeologists in 1931. We do not really know whether the pharaoh looked like this, although many images of him show similar characteristics of long neck and face, full lips and slanting eyes.
Let me proceed, therefore:
I’ve Seen Akhenaten
There is a stone face beside a road with an inscription saying ‘The True Portrait of the Holy Face of the God of Jaén’ […]
~ Jorge Luis Borges, “Paradiso, XXXI, 108”
The stone makes you look sick:
As if a fungus were spreading
Over your chest, your shoulders,
Your collarbone. But perhaps
The pain is in your eye.
Your eye is too large, it
Takes in all of the erosion,
The fading pigments,
The toxic dust carefully contained
Between walls of reinforced glass.
You try to speak, to complain,
To shout at the curator:
Why is it that you have
To share the space with
Your sickness, your immortal disease?
But the chisel has melt your lips
Into this stone. You were
Just turning to me, just about
To warn me of it all.
But the photographer in stone
Clicked his chisels and here you are now…
The likeness of the cobra in your headpiece,
Embellishing a brick…