Mummified Bird

Richie Hofmann

The Pharaoh who loved me died.

They put his body in oil and linen.

In life, he called me pretty birdy.

I pulled dead feathers from my side for him, I practiced

holding his finger. We both were chosen

from among our kind. He sent slaves

to a room they never came back from

and once a wife he didn’t love. I love

the marble shape of him, packed with fragrant herbs.

Priests attended my cage, like doting women.

Then a man put his hands on my head

and I felt the air no longer. He barely touched me

I was so breakable. The cats were mute, like death.

The jackal-headed man held my heart.

Does the earth belong to him now?

If there is a soul, I don’t think it can let go

of such splendor: his silent mouth,

his brain, like mine, outside of him — though he walks now

in another place, in another perfect body

with a new wife to love him.

Richie Hofmann is the author of a collection of poems, Second Empire, and poems that have appeared recently in The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Yale Review. A 2017-19 Wallace Stegner Fellow, he is currently Jones Lecturer in Poetry at Stanford University.