"And on the pedestal these words appear:

'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my words, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

—Shelley, Ozymandias 


The heat and sand is reckless with it's love (or lust, or desire

                                                                                    Is there a difference?)


And on the second day there was nothing but dry and crumbling tongue (desmenuce)

Inside his mouth, so that the storm in turn turn turning, went unnoticed

Until it swallowed all the loamed beasts and

Caged lions.

In the desert, there is deepened thirst—and it is jungle (oasis is too isolated, finite) with it's eye-like palms and shuttered sunlight with leaves and leaves and, behind it, something darker which is rushing rushing always rushing until the leaves are soaked in it and they, too, pull at him with eager arms.

Tell him: Come, come, where there is water and Nut to sing you into the grass hut of the night (and the grass here will be lush and aching with an overflow of water—plenty enough for you)

He knows it is not real and that is why he quivers when the harsh angles of the pyramids in the distance glow dimly, ask: And what is left behind?

And further on there is a trail of garments (half-covered in scorching sands that might have once been Nefertiri or some other, sleeping god) leading back to Egypt.

Yet, further:

In his mind's eye there is no desert and he is home among his books (looking-dreaming-lusting for Egypt, but only objectively). And on a page (one-sixty-four?) there is a photo of a sphinx with it's nose chipped off and he writes in runny ink along the margin (oh, what a find for some hapless archaeologist! What—that he should discover the eggshell so long after the god had left!)

He sees the blots and thinks they look like small, unconnected streams of

Dirty water.


A single black asp slithers in amongst the tossed clothes and finds it is

A white, heatless cave

Smells with heated tongue; frantic blood and sweat-soaked lace and even a trace of desperation: nothing, nothing, all


It knows enough, and slithers on (spells a message which will

Fade, come the next sand storm).


Where is the line?

Where to cross?

                        Here there are no such boundaries; except the Sphinx

                                    The blind monster.


Only sand,

Only nothing (sometimes, it seems, not even sky)

Only—illusion—of water

                                    Farther east.

And he will keep walking (in thought, only for his

Body lies quite still)


The body of the lions he trades and the head of a king—

King of kings!, and he remembers a college room

Remembers England, the opposite: cold and damp and grey.

And what now?

                        What is left behind?


A tortoise happened by, it's shell, it seemed, the only lush and vegetative thing to be had. And he wondered, too, if that was dream.

But no, his dreams are not of tortoises, but revelries and wine and

Sweat, sweat, sweat—it would seem this land is bathed in desires. And the girls,

They too, in Indian silk and nerve-patterned smiles.

They, too.


Ozymandias, Ozymandias!

The words twist and bend on the sand until it is a tree—ripe and heavy.

And, underneath, 

Girls with kohl-eyes and sheer silk, holding urns.

Eyes that are crumbled, stone and sightless; the nose, broken away—

He wakes with the black snake curled around his waist (but not really, this is a dream) and is certain he is not awake. Even with his last, choked breath. Even with the Sphinx, looking the other way.

There are only mirages in the desert.


Sand tests the gold-base of pyramids; licks greedily so another grain is chipped.

Like small, toothed things that chatter quietly against the stone and the imperfect face,

Asks: And what is left behind?

            A white hat disappears within the shifting desert, down to join the pearled cities.

A/N: inspiration owed to Shelley and the British occupation of Egypt (as evidence of how much European history has consumed me right now :P)