It represents a mason’s table,
not a nilometer. An emblem
of Osiris, lord of Tettu, tet
means firmness and preservation.
Often plumes, disks, and horns
appear painted on this amulet
usually found lying on the neck
of the mummy beside the Tet.
Craftsmen made tets of faience,
gold, gilded wood, and carnelian,
although the hundred-and-fifty-fifth
chapter decrees they must be gold.
This chapter begins, “Rise up thou
O resting of heart this, shine thou,
O resting of heart place thyself
upon thy place.” So redundant,
the Book of the Dead. I lose
my place in it, brew a cup of tea,
and return to read that the tet
empowers the dead to pass the gates
of the underworld. So what happens
if one arrives without one’s tet?
No cakes, no joints of meat from altars
of Ra. What sort of culture governs
through fear? Sipping tea I lean
in my chair and watch rain incite
spring flowers, endorsing notions
at least as subtle as the Nile’s.
[William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. His most recent collection of poetry is Waiting for the Angel(2009). He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors. His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Massachusetts Review, Notre Dame Review, The Alembic, New England Quarterly, Harvard Review, Modern Philology, Antioch Review, and Natural Bridge. And he also blogs here.]