Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
I Talk with My Friend by Canopic Jars

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ca. 664-25 BC, Egyptian Saite Period
From the collection at the
Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, NY

Heads of the Four Sons of Horus
once guarded little mummies
of lungs, liver, stomach,
and intestines in canopic jars
now behind glass in the Gallery.

She had a wonderful year in China, I say, and is flying home
tomorrow. Our younger daughter just graduated, and leaves
in a few weeks for college. So we'll be Empty Nesters.

Dua Mutef, the Jackal Son, looks
at me with his clay eyes. He's tried
to do his job, but it was easier
when he and the mummy stomach
that he guarded were buried deep
and out of sight. Now he sits on the empty jar
blind-eyed, unsure of his new role.

We'll be gone a lot in August, taking one and then the other
off to school. September will be hard for us -- I can't believe
they'll both be gone.

        Hapy, ape --
a sentinel for the lungs; Qebeh Senuef,
a falcon, for intestines; where, I wonder,
is a Son of Horus to preserve
and guard the heart? Lung to lung,
liver to liver, I stand no less a fool
than he who made these jars and he
who filled them -- none of us can bring back
what is gone. Imsety's human head,
guard of the liver, stares me down,
still fierce and faithful to his task.
I understand his challenge.
I, too, am a clay jar.
What I hold is precious.


Wanda Schubmehl is a poet and therapist living in Rochester, New York. She and her husband, Bill, have two daughters: Stephanie, who lives in Beijing, China, speaks Mandarin fluently, and works for a Chinese translation company, and Adriana, who is studying for a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Resolution at St. Andrew’s University in Fife, Scotland. Air miles have become very important to her.
Wanda’s work has appeared in Writer Online, Rattle, and Centrifugal Eye, and in the anthologies The Dire Elegies: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America and Knocking on the Silence. Her poem “While Eating Outdoors in Beijing” was nominated by Ghoti for a Pushcart prize.


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