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Scraps -- By Erica Funkhouser

Sappho's poems had to wait
in the mouths of mummified
crocodiles for centuries
before someone cracked
the sarcophagi.

On strips of papyrus they waited,
lyrical sighs and hymns of praise
the color of squashed insects.
In the crypts of Egypt,
in disintegrating Greek,
ink sinking into reed,
reed splintering to powder,
they held their breath.

Flames beneath the skin.
Volcanic apples
between the teeth.
Desire will scrape and save its cavity.

You can almost hear time pacing,
not pacing, pacing again
as the brittle bundles are separated
from their long and delicate jaws.

Then it's out of one mouth
into another,
everything beginning again,
as the scholar in white linen
reads aloud,

"seeing nothing,
hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip
with sweat."

Erica Funkhouser's most recent collection of poems is Pursuit (2002). She read "Scraps" as part of her Lowell Lecture presentation at Boston College on April 10, 2003.

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