Throwback Saturday with "The Mummy Declines His Curse" from issue 296.2

Michael Hudson

Michael Hudson was a Honorable Mention for the James Hearst Poetry Prize in the Spring of 2011 and was featured in issue 296.2 of the North American Review.

From the author:

Archaeology is sometimes a peculiar endeavor when you think about it - the digging up and display of human remains is very repugnant if it is your grandma, but it is kind of okay so long as it is your great-great-great-great-grandma.  There has been some changes in attitude lately; Native Americans in particular objecting to the desecration of ancestors.  Museums have been returning, sometimes reluctantly, the bones that have long been part of their collections.  But as far as I know, there has been little effort to repatriate Egyptian museum mummies to their tombs and pyramids.  I suppose time is the factor; the older the bones the less likely anyone will claim descent.  But technically we are all related to Pharaoh Thutmosis IV as well as Lucy the Australopithecus, and so therefore every time we view his pilfered mummy or her pitiful little handful of yellow fossil bones we are...being impious?  Disrespectful? Scientific?  Ghoulish?  Whatever it is, there is something that's bound to be a little iffy about rifling through somebody's tomb, even with the best of scientific intentions.  The poem was poking around this idea.


I know very little about ancient Egypt, but it has always seemed to me a somewhat alien place, and more than a little intimidating.  All those colossi and pyramids!  My fictional mummy here is supposed to sound too disgusted to bother with cursing our modern triflers and pilferers.  I'd hoped to convey his disgust as well as his imperial arrogance.  But I also wanted to note, at the beginning of the poem, all those awful things the embalmers did to a corpse to prepare it for mummification.  Pharaoh, for all his power and pretensions, was meat just like the rest of us, subject to the poking and prodding of undertakers, coroners, doctors, archaeologists, forensic scientists, and museum curators.

The Mummy Declines His Curse

Shoveled and crowbarred out of this sound sleep, brainless, gutless

a mouth stitched forever shut. My heart's been salted and screwed
into an alabaster jar. Nostrils and ears, asshole and eye

sockets all hooked and scooped, swabbed and eternally bunged...

Errr. Errr. My tomb is a mess. Crummy hieroglyphs peel away

from the ceiling. Papyrus prayers and priestly
protocols dissolve in a flashlight's beam. Mo looters achoo, persist,

and resume the inventory of my Queen's unstrung beads, a splinter
from her ruined pelvis and the black scatter of her

knuckle bones. Hai! My golden strap-on beard hangs askew...

O yes, I've come unspooled. But you're slaves to a white flicker,

to the damp trash of your money. You mistook arithmetic for divinity
and footnotes for scripture. But I won't play rat-catcher

to your rat-god science. I don't need you. None of you are worth
my reanimation. How I despise your sunburnt

knees and forensic orthodontists,
your tweezers and niggling analyses. Once the Nile wouldn't flood

without my inscrutable nod. Thousands broke their backs
lugging my colossi up impossible ramps. I scourged the continents

with my royal flail, footstooled the groveling Kings of This and That.

Michael Derrick Hudson lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana where he works at the Allen County Public Library. In addition to North American Review, his poems have appeared in Columbia, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review,New Letters, Washington Square, and other journals.  He won the River Styx 2009 International Poetry Contest, the Madison Review’s 2009 Phyllis Smart Young Prize, and the 2010 and 2013 New Ohio ReviewPrize for Poetry.  His poems have twice been nominated for Pushcart Prizes.  Other poems are forthcoming in Poetry, Georgia Review, and Southern Humanities Review. Micheal's most recent publication with NAR is his poem, "Ahnentafel" featured in issue 298.2.

Illustration: Thutmosis IV mummy head