T: Nefertiti Grows Tired of Worshipping the Sun Disc

I can barely make it out, cannot bear

the weight of its divine fire, this new city.

Gazes turned from me, Beautiful! our followers cry,

sour sun in the sky droning on with its light.

The pantheon my husband pared to one,

so that morning ’til night Aten alone stares down on us,

his searing rays relentless. Any slave knows that to build

on a single point makes for a weak structure.

What does the sacred disc know of my life?

I’m thirsty for the company of my birthplace,

history full as a floodplain, fellowship of tombs,

sweet waters of two riverbanks mine to rule.

These mud bricks shaped in haste do not speak to me.

Sand has no memory – the trail that led us here,

already invisible. At dawn, the Great One rises

only to begin again the next morning at an identical point.

What are my daughters’ fates in this cursed crossroad?

A mother must hold them closer for the shifting desert wind.

Already I have buried one from my womb.

Show me where I signed my mark for such a fortune.

The T, or tav (meaning “mark”), was the final letter of the Phoenician alphabet. It’s believed by certain scholars to have been inspired by a simplification of the hieroglyph of a heart and trachea (i.e., just the trachea) – a symbol that translated as “good,” or “beautiful,” and that appears five times in the full name of Queen Nefertiti.

Kathryn Petruccelli holds an M.A. in teaching English language learners. Her professional life has included translating “Hotel California” for Hungarian high schoolers and anthologizing poetry by rival gang members. Best of the Net nominee, she was a finalist for the 2019 Omnidawn Broadside Poetry Prize and past winner of San Francisco’s LitQuake essay contest. Her work has appeared in New Ohio Review, Rattle, Poet Lore, River Teeth’s Beautiful Things, december, SWWIM, Ruminate, Catamaran Literary Reader, Glass, and others. She teaches online writing workshops from western Massachusetts. Find her at poetroar.com.