Maggie Dietz

Over plates of quinoa and mango chicken it appeared
out of a closet, resurrected from a dusty hatbox
and passed around like a sleeping infant:
a three-thousand-year-old sixteen-year-old girl.
Or parts of a girl: the forearms and head, the body
maybe taken for its rags to make brown butcher paper.

The hatbox had bloomed from a larger box
labeled by a child’s hand with black magic
marker GREEK ARTIFACTS, brimming with other broken,
ancient things—cracked kylix, one-horned terra cotta bull—
and stowed next to a box coughing tinsel, marked XMAS,
and another marked WEDDING GIFTS, evidently
lugged unopened house to house since the long-ago wedding
of our just-divorced host.

Inherited Victorian plunder, curiosities bought up
by one of George Washington’s descendants whose legal woes
our friend’s grandfather fixed he said, pouring more Pinot.

Football season, and one guest yelled “Go long,”
faked lobbing the head across the room.
Another pretended to use an arm as a back scratcher.
Everybody laughed. I laughed.

I took the head in my hands.
Just above the temple, a hole so you could see
the yellow skull, the wrapping parted like hair.

I passed the head and took an arm.
Where the wrap had frayed at the tips
of the fingers were brown fingernails, the wrists
slashed where looters had snagged a bracelet,
a hole below the knuckle of one finger.

Then from the same box our friend produced
a broken falcon: walnut head, the severed body
narrowing like a bottle-stopper, the wings dried
tobacco leaves closing over its breast.

Horus, son of Isis, sun-god, sky-god, god of protection:
Had they killed the bird to bury her with it?

Somebody’s beloved child,
long-dead daughter of the long-dead:

Days were when she watched the bird circle
and dive and later pinched mites from its feathers
with her fingernails, her rings catching sun, scattering
seeds of light. Late afternoons, she’d laugh and hitch up
her gold and pomegranate robes to run, teasing the boy
who’d given her the bracelet—carnelian and feldspar—
until he caught her small bright body in his arms.
She kissed him. His breath warmed her neck.