Once, long ago, I stood over the bones of a man
Who had died at the gate of an ancient city,
An arrow through his throat.
He slept through the ages in charcoal and rubble,
The world above spun round through centuries, but he was
Oblivious to all such petty things,
His city burned and
fallen on his unmarked grave,
Then itself buried and forgotten.
A jewel of the Bronze Age,
Thriving in the time of Khufu of Egypt,
This city would rise and
Be destroyed again, five times,
Until it was buried a final time,
At the time Crusaders died
At Jerusalem’s gates.
The Indus River, a mile away now, chews her way through
Old dirt and stone, feeding Her sacred hunger.
When that man died, she licked the banks
Outside the gate, bringing life.
Date palms grew everywhere,
There were caravans near the dock,
Ships from many nations, many tongues
Tied up at docks to be loaded by slaves,
Their masters counting profits and
Haggling over spices and goats and slaves.
Lush gardens and broad fields, watered by Mother Indus,
Fed and replenished the people for 1,000 years.
Nearly two millennia have passed while
That soldier slept the ages away in the rubble of the gate,
Until the stones and dust were brushed away.
His bones, finally at peace, were
Revealed in the tropical sun
And the sound of the river was a distant whisper.
But the river—swollen by snows that fell
In a time when two-mile-high glaciers
Buried the top of the world—
Chews and sighs, never pausing,
Feeding Her sacred hunger,
Finding new paths through old dirt and rocks,
Moving ever further from the city,
Withholding life from a desert town.
Nothing stays the same.
That memory resurfaced today,
Many years hence, and, as memories will,
Washed over me with the heat of the sun,
The dust and the smells of camels milling nearby.
Came with it an old friend,
A glimpse again of deep time,
A curtain pulled aside for an instant.
Rome rises for 1,000 years and falls.
Pericles. Alexander the Great.
Ghengis Khan, and Kublai, and the Horde…
Tick, tick, tick, tick… tick,
Humans walk out of Africa for the first time
Life climbs from the ooze.
We are but the briefest part of a story
That goes back beyond comprehension.
We breathe briefly of life and are quickly forgotten.
I wondered what his mother called him
On the day of his birth,
That soldier who rested peacefully in the
Embrace of Deep Time.