The Homeless Man Thinks of Ancient Egypt         

 

I pray to the sun on these temple walls,

the shifting angles and blaze of it,

the way it melts the pavement ice

mid-morning near the cashpoint.

I imagine them as merchants, astronomers and viziers

sitting at the window of the coffee-shop opposite

then they become slaves and slave-owners,

baboons manoeuvring the flow and current

of glinting windscreens,

tax-collectors with the snapping heads of crocodiles

that cancel me with an eye-blink;

asps and hawks and chattering ibis.

 

I am sore beggar and heretic

but Horus shares the sun’s strength with everyone

and for moments He lets me stop time

freezing the figures in KFC and BetFred the Bonus-King,

jamming the screens inside Lloyds Bank

while Ra makes a gong-bath out of the street-roar.

The gas-workers toil in their jack-hammer clatter

on the banks of the traffic-river.

One squeezes the life out of a cigarette,

the vapour of his breath in a shaft of sun

is like the frost of my breath in this aching air – we are brothers

under the midday moon I take for divination and augury.

 

The sun’s transit takes the blaze

behind high roofs, there is a trapezium of light

I shuffle to at the corner, it forecloses.

 

Someone has bought me a coffee, her glance contains a smile.

I open the lid and take a careful sip. A packet of crisps too.

The moneylenders have not quite taken over the temple.

 

Anubis looks out through the eyes of a jackal-headed dog

trotting up to me, just out of reach. It sniffs.

Weigher of souls, tomb-guardian, am I fit for Paradise?

 

                                                                                               Graeme Ryan

Winner of Teignmouth Open Poetry Competition 2018