Sonnet of King Tut

                                                                                                                               (At Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt)

                                             Had to argue                               against tale of breasts
                                             Curving to shape                              my narrative of breath
                                                                                                                                           I walk into paintings                  belief abound
                                                                                                                              In placement                    simple madness compounds

                                             I sleep across worlds                             my body at stake
                                             Night guillotines fears                              into riots of musk
                                                                                                                               Ruins thrashing hollow                  hug tender pillow
                                                                                                                                      I make jokes                 of my untapped potential
                                             Hoping at least humor                                 endows me edge
                                             Amun grants sky                                envy gently subsides
                                                                                                                                      Ripples in organs                 subsist with stillness
                                                                                                                                      Of embalmed eyes I desire                  when dead

                                             Skins become stories                               raised on interludes
                                             My head rounded still                               my eyes shall unsee

*Tutankhamun, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh ascended the throne when he was 9 and died at 18. The discovery of his nearly intact tomb in 1922 from 3000 years ago unearthing his mask, gold coffin, a lotus chalice amongst 5000 other items remains an astonishing find.

Satya Dash

What is the significance of this work to you?

A delightful aspect of looking at our pasts is the sheer expanse of wonder— incidents, circumstances, emotions cutting across multiple versions of us, so much so that often the present version is well and truly astounded at the audacity or spirit or madness of a previous version. This was the context in which a sequence of sonnet hybrid poems invested in desire and its variegations was first conceived. Both poems belong to this sequence attempting to synthesize a montage through the assembly of evolving moments as cellular breaths. Personally, I veered off from the sacred idea of specificity in “The fragments we call throes” and took on a wider canvas of abstract images and emotions to manifest the effect of years. While it was a risk, I felt the underlying contrast of having to display the macro through an intra-linked web of ephemeral constructs could sustain the tension in a short space. 

The other poem was born from my visit to KV62, the famous tomb of young pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. As I read more about the history of the young boy who ascended the throne at the age of 9 years in 1334 BC and worked hard to restore cultural monuments and diplomatic relations during a short reign before suffering an unnatural death at 19, I grew increasingly fascinated about the story of a body that survives more than 3000 years. Owing to the remarkable discovery of their sarcophagus and artifacts in 1922, the legend lives on. The poem was an outcome of wanting to write an ode to this strange, compelling legacy

What is the significance of the form(s) you chose for this work?

The idea was to create a fragmented or even fractured perspective akin to the process of putting bare bricks together to show a wall in its naked form without plaster, cement or paint, the essence of which remains a key aspect of our reflexive approaches to breathing, thinking and even remembering. The sonnet remains a timeless device to explore the shrinking of scale and seemed a fitting form to see how a bounty could be compressed into a meaningful crystallization. So almost involuntarily, I chose or rather the poems took the shape of a fragment-sonnet, used differently on the page in both instances, as a way to stitch the mosaic together. 

What was your process for creating these pieces?

Both of these poems came from scribbling down abstractions over a few weeks, back in 2019. Now thinking about it, the assembling was done in odd places at odd times (during a cab ride, a movie-intermission interval in a theater, while waiting for friends at a restaurant). Then one day I sat down at my desk to see if I could structure a flow by putting together the jigsaw pieces. Of course, a poet can never really discount revisions, which in this case involved lots of playing around by swapping and modifying phrases. 

Satya Dash's poems have been published or are forthcoming in Waxwing, Wildness, Redivider, Passages North, The Journal, The Florida Review, Hobart, The Cortland Review and Poetry@Sangam among others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. He is a two-time Orison Anthology and Best New Poets nominee. He spent his early years in Odisha and now lives in Bangalore, India. He tweets at: @satya043