Thursday, September 8

The Flood of the World that Was

"Hail to thee, O Nile!
Who manifests thyself over this land, and comes to give life to Egypt!
Come and prosper!
Come and prosper!
O Nile, come and prosper!
O you who make men to live through his flocks and his flocks through his orchards!
Come and prosper, come,
O Nile, come and prosper!

Hail to thee, O my god, Hapi of the North and South, lord of fishes and birds of the marsh, husband of Meret, Naunet, Nekhebet, Wadjet, father of our beautiful Kem, king of Ta Mery, hail. Hear us, great Hapi, and have mercy. Have you been detained in the world of the dead? The black sweet mud of your banks is drying to blow out over the red lands, and our people cry out their bone-deep hunger. We have given you jewelry and meat, sent our children to call you home. We dry into hollow reeds, hard and old, suffering the lack. Hap-Meht or Hap-Reset, god of Ta-Sheme'aw and Ta-Mehew both, attend your people, do not let the flood fail-- "

The tablet ends there, its voice silenced forever by events unknown. Iterw, Neilos or Nilos, the Nile we know today is not the same, never the fulsome blue god with overflowing breasts, rising from the Elephantine Isles, traveling through the world of the dead to bring life.

Kemet is no longer Herodotus' gift of the Nile, black shining jewel of the desert, the fruitful land. We have traveled deep into the red lands of the desert and cannot return. Hap-Meht or Hap-Reset, papyrus or lotus, Upper or Lower, neither now will hear us over the growing roar in the lands below, the sharp sounds of missiles and airstrikes, machine guns and hand grenades, factions and fundamentalists.

There, in the mist and the silence that hangs over the yearly inundation of the great delta, the relics of the father of cultivated lands are hidden in the mysteries of other gods, hidden under centuries as heavy as damp wool blankets. Now we are Egypt. Now we are Masr, and the glyph of our name that meant not only "precious blackness" but also "the ending of things" is hidden forever beneath the Greek and Arabic and English of the future tense.

This week's Indie Ink challenge comes from The Drama Mama, who left me a fragment: "...because the river runs through it, an even divide, the old world on one side, the new world on the other like a mirror of past and future."  Which seemed very sad to me, in the context of ancient civilizations and rivers, and who better to articulate this sadness than the prototype for all desert river civilizations?  Hence, my elegy to the world that was.  The fragment of a hymn that is the first paragraph and the names of the ancients are as accurate as I can make them--everything else, I made up.
At any rate, my challenge went out to Kerri, and you can read her response here.