Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2009

British Museum Revisited Again

by Michael Farry


In the Museum I heard thirty languages
as I investigated the frequency of owls
with broken legs on Egyptian burial reliefs

and concocted a theory which I have forgot
but which was based I think on the occult
em and parliament. It may have been forty

I could have lost count in that ziggurat
as I ascended level after level from obsolete
ages through empires of stone to zeniths

of civilisation. Some languages were lost
so I guessed the accents from the exotic
TV stations. After Elgin’s Marbles, I chose

a retreat to the café near the Rosetta Stone
where I sat with a civilised currant scone
and coffee, digested daily life in Babylon.

I remember being dumbfounded in Greece
to discover that my school Greek was useless.
I could read Xenophon, follow his sweep

up country, his labyrinthine retreat to base
but couldn’t read toilet signs on the Acropolis.
The scone was fresh but the coffee history

so I fled before the fall of the Roman Empire.
I told the hall door porter that I had an issue
with the shallow interpretation and rendition

of the Assyrian artefacts. He said: “Complain
in writing”. I have finished my Ogham stone
and intend to deliver it by hand next month.

In Russell Street vendors were frying onions,
London rain eroding all its unroofed monuments.
I stood and heard the drip drip of empires.

Added: 25.04.2009

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