January 22, 2006


In the religion of the Ancient Egyptians, life is dominated by Ma’at - the law of justice, order and balance. Ma’at is symbolised by the Feather of Truth. In death, the deceased is tried. His earthly knowledge is displayed before the Court, overseen by Thoth, the ibis-headed God of Wisdom. At the end of the trial, the deceased man’s heart is placed on a scale and weighed against the Feather. If the Feather outweighs the heart, the deceased has led a righteous life and may join the afterlife. If the man’s life on earth has made his heart heavy, Ammut, the God with crocodile head and hippopotamus legs, will devour his heart. In this way, Ammut, the Swallower of the Damned, consigns the man to a second death which is eternal oblivion.

The Painter

Painter looked at the mountain
And the mountain looked
Or so he thought, in the wind
Her slopes were huge and icy
The mountain looked on
Painter, cried the falling leaves
Look at the mountain
We are shrubs by the river
Look at our stones and see
We are limited

Painter looked at the small boy
And the small boy looked
Or so he thought, in the store
His fingers were curled and soft
The small boy looked on
Painter, cried the local store
Look at the small boy
We are dust behind the shelves
Look at our tins and see
We are limited

Painter looked at the girlfriend
And the girlfriend looked
Or so he thought, in the bed
Her eyes were blue and hazy
The girlfriend looked on
Painter, cried the blood stained sheets
Look at the girlfriend
We are cracks in the ceiling
Look at our hairs and see
We are limited

At noon, Painter was painting
And the mountain was
Or so he thought, on the page
Her slopes were ‘bianco white’
The mountain was not
Painter, cried the boy’s fingers
You see through ‘pale cream’
Your eyes make other mountains
Look, your pupils are stones
Are you limited?

Painter left for the co-op
And the boy had left
Or so it seemed, in the aisles

By the tins, no soft fingers
The boy left nothing
Painter, cried the girlfriend’s sheets
You think without dust
Your mind makes other children
Look, your skull is cracking
Are you limited?

Painter ran to the girlfriend
And the girl’s eyes ran
Or so he thought, with his paint
Her neck was wet and scarlet
The girl’s eyes ran red
Painter, cried the girlfriend’s tears
You look for a boy
We are colour with no brush
Look at our tracks and see
We can break limits
At dusk, Painter loved the girl
And the girlfriend loved
Or so it seemed, in the dark
Her limbs were blue and hazy
The girl’s love created
Painter, cried the girl’s body
Look at my black hairs
I’m staining the sheets with blood
Look at my crack and see
I am your limits

At night, his hand grew heavy
Heavily entwined
Or so it seemed, in his head
With his lover’s soft fingers

They had merged at the joints
Girlfriend, cried the Painter-Man
Look at our fingers
They’re grey with dust from the store
Feel the soft flesh and know
We limit ourselves

The man ran to the mountain
And the girlfriend ran
So it was, in the sunlight
The leaves fell off their bodies
The lovers ran on
Lover, cried the girlfriend
Look at the mountain
We’re running in her shadow
Feel my fingers’ aching
We are limited


Painter gains the courage to hack off his right hand. He is free to paint, but only with his left hand – his second, less natural choice.


During the trial, Ammut swallows Painter’s discarded hand.


The mountain in Painter’s eyes.

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  • Nice to see these poems again, Niki. I really enjoyed reading them last year. by on this entry
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