VIII Kal. Nov.
My life has been surrounded by milk.
My mother was valued at six milch-cows,
but I, as a youth, was sold for four.
It was the milk of four thousand cows
poured out into the ocean’s basin for white-caps
that I crossed to Gaul after my selling.
“A kid, I have fallen into milk,”
I’ve heard the boy say to the Emperor
with a smile and a laugh on many occasions.
Some private joke, I think.
But there is a goddess of the Egyptians,
who I learned in Gaul is called Isis,
but the Egyptian priest here shakes his head at me
when I say her name. “She is Hethert,
but the Greeks call her Hathor.”
All of these Egyptian gods have the same face—
and that gods have faces like humans at all is new to me, true—
so I cannot tell one goddess here from the next,
except for what strange objects they wear upon their heads
over that black expanse of hair, always the same length,
molded like a pot upon the wheel into smooth perfection.
This goddess, golden, wears a cow’s horns on her head,
and there are other cows around this temple who likewise are adorned
with a representation of the sun between their horns,
like their goddess…or are these cows the goddess herself,
transformed into bovine form? I know a goddess like that…
but this is not her, and this is a different land.
Still, this goddess turns to a snake as well at times.
The Emperor, Empress, and the boy stand before the statue
in this strange small temple in this ramshackle village
(I’ve seen ring-forts with more buildings in them!)
and the Egyptian priest chants his vowels and says his words;
a strange vision comes before my eyes:
the goddess, breasts pendulous and golden,
begins to shower forth a spray of milk,
and not even the Greek’s Hercules could lap it up.
I, and the Emperor and Empress, and even the boy
all begin to be inundated in it, a white flood,
and it fills the temple, spilling out its doors;
we swim for a time, but soon the very roof-beams
are awash in it, and we each drown in it,
myself dipping below the surface last as I cease breathing…
I gasp and come to, and nothing has happened,
and though the priest and all around me still look forward
the boy glances back at me and smiles, the Golden Goddess behind him.