You’ve arrived, dog, at the Museum of Fine Arts,
packed in a foam-padded wooden crate, and now,
gingerly broken out, placed at the show’s main gate
tight-lipped. Greeter, first contact, shouldn’t visitors
hear that during your stint as number one dog
at the pharaoh’s side—not when you were mummified,
but when you were both alive—you lost your teeth?
Something in the water. You couldn’t even snatch
and shake a drowned Nile rat. Poor thing. But given
your powerful ties, you couldn’t show and shake
like that. So first, rather than just put you down,
the pharaoh had you fixed—like himselves—ceremoniously
brought back to strut around, jaws crammed with gold
fangs, molars, and incisors. You’d look forever
enforcing, he thought. But you couldn’t. Jaws weighted
as such, your head dragged ashamed. What next?
Out of the ant lines of slaves stepped one, who
claimed that any burdened animal still loved play.
Like a museum, he tried to save you and give
others breaks. He proposed that two slaves knock off
hourly, swing down from the pyramids to entertain
you, dog, keep you circling, perky. The proposal
passed—no presumed effect on production—but ooo
the weight of those teeth. You ran out of gas by noon,
so the two slaves on duty desperately rolled you
on your back and scratched your belly, and you did
what dogs do, sympathetically kicked as if
you were doing the work and smiled. The inclined slaves
loved the unintended humor, roared. The pharaoh
couldn’t have that, immediately fixed you for good,
never moving, no sound, no smiling. Best for warding
off. Sort of a welcome: stay, stay where you are.
Scott Withiam’s first book is Arson & Prophets. His poems are recently out in Agni, Antioch Review, Ascent, Boston Review, Chattahoochee Review, and Cimarron Review. Poems are forthcoming in Barrow Street and Beloit Poetry Journal. He works for a non-profit in the Boston area.