The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
— William Butler Yeats
I was pushed without my permission
into a tangle of birthdays.
listen, eavesdroppers, there is no such thing
as a bed without affliction…
— Lucille Clifton
Hope springs eternal in the human breast.
— Alexander Pope
Five thousand years pointing at the sun;
Five thousand years at moon and stars;
Rising out of sand, each building block
A Mac Truck of solidity, sheer weight
Defying reason, begging the question,
Five thousand years of pharaohs and invaders—
Semites…, Hyksos…, Hittites…, Nubians…,
Romans…, Turks…, Frenchmen…, Anglos…, Yanks…
And the Nile flooding, the Nile receding,
And all along its banks:
Life and commerce; birth, love, suffering, death.
Akhnaton sleeps with the first dream of God;
Boyish Tut and long-lived Ramses; Cheops
And asp-kissed Cleopatra. … Bored French troops
Take pot-shots at the Sphinx; Nelson slaps
The Little Emperor’s fleet; the world winds on;
Gamal Abdel Nasser sleeps—all entombed
In the embracing sands of the enchanting dream.
And then, in an instant, the sun dial of the pyramids
Moves a degree, shudders between
Shadowy and luminous… and the awakened behold
In the mirrors of compatriot eyes
Themselves!—singing, dancing in streets and bazaars,
With the old world scratching, gawking, How?
And…, Why now? What next?
But it is as though
Those apexes of stone, those points of light
Have punched like awls through leathery Time
To the enveloping atmosphere
Of what has been,
Notched the belt of our perceptions,
Knocking from our human solar plexus
The breath of wonder… seeing emerging
From beneath the Sphinx’s haunches
A blood-swaddled babe, wailing