Sometimes I look at my altar, all the brass, lavender, and candles, and I worry
that it is too crowded, that some gods can’t see their sigils, that the clutter will
confuse the divine. But some gods find beauty in chaos, some enjoy excess like
Thoth. His temples were filled with animal mummies sold by priests standing
along the way to the necropolis. There were mummies of cats, dogs, and crocodiles.
You could even buy a scarab beetle wrapped taut so it lay flat like a coin. But the most
belovèd animal mummy was the ibis, white-plumed emblem of Thoth himself.
The ibis was anointed with pine resin, feathers pressed with beeswax. Bowing
the dark scythe of beak to breast, the ibis was folded and bound in linen. Many
people bought the mummy birds to offer to Thoth, but this pattern inspired greed.
False priests bent lizards, coiled snakes, and wrapped these hollow shapes in linen,
dyed ochre and streaked black with tar. Tightly swaddled, no one could see these
chimaera mummies with their faux beaks fashioned from spine. No one except
for Thoth who scoffed and flung a curse at those who falsely worshipped which
made sure their descendants would never know true sleep, would never rest
like the ibis mummy, folded and serene. Standing at my altar, I do not have
a mummy for Thoth, no scarab beetle, no ibis in linen. I don’t know if I will ever
have offerings fit for gods, but I’d rather offer nothing than be caught as a fraud.
First Day As A Ghost
From atop my headboard, I smell the palo santo I tucked under
the mattress and the agarbatti I lit two nights before I died. I’m
surprised to be able to smell. Of all the senses to keep. My left
finger is still infected from a misaimed knife in the kitchen. It
should have healed, wounds don’t suit my hands, elegant like
spiders. I practice introducing myself. Hello. Hell, oh. How do
the dead self-style? Am I still a scholar, just a woman? More
or less divine? I am egg cracked into a bowl, breathless and vibrating.
I push boxes to my Siamese hoping she will bring some books
to people I love. It’s no surprise that cats tend to the dead,
at least that much is predictable. At the foot of my bed, no
bhajans or mantras come to mind. Are they spent?
Did I forget? Did everyone? So much for 4000 years
of Vedic theology. I slink off to a bar before I remember
that I have no business there. A ghost walks into the bar.
I wait for the punch line and a whiskey ginger. Am I profound?
Is this a metaphor? A riddle? I wish I could slosh wine down
my front, feel sticky, and blot my skin with a napkin.
Rita Mookerjee is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Iowa State University. Her poetry is featured in Aaduna, GlitterMOB, Sinister Wisdom, Berfrois, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She is a poetry staff reader for [PANK]. Follow her on Instagram: @melanincholia