J-T Kelly

Welcome to the 2nd Grade Ancient Egypt Museum Day for Parents

A pipe cleaner asp rising from the center of her forehead,
My daughter threatens me with a long slender plastic hook.
“This is the tool they stick up your nose to pull out your brain!”

The whole classroom is given over to the progression of the dead —
Organs in jars, look! Your soul weighed against a feather, look! —
And each macabre display comes with a smiling child to explain.

"Here’s a sarcophagus!" The entire class collaborated, I’m told.
My daughter’s hand crafted this scarab. And here’s her cartouche
On this papier-mâché box, too small to hold the body of an adult.

But the mummy is not dead any more than it is old.
Its cardboard arms held paper towels just last week. Then — whoosh! —
They were snatched up to serve the purposes of this chattering cult.

The final stop is a demonstration of funerary wrapping.
“Hold your arm out,” some little priest of Anubis chirps. I take a rain check.
Like the Nile during Akhet, noise is rising in the classroom.

Our time here has come to an end. Some parents are clapping.
I hug my daughter and say, "Goodbye, Little Princess," as her asp pricks my neck.
She turns back to be with all the other children in costume —

Taller than they are and straighter than they stand —
Shadows of monuments behind them on the sand.

J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis, Indiana. He lives in a brick house with his wife and five children, his two parents, and a dog.