“Hermanubis, show me the way out of this valley.”
The dog-headed lord raises one arm and points
To where Sirius is rising with the sun.
Then he drops to all fours and nudges me with his snout
To get me moving. I climb to my feet and pick up
The caduceus where Hermanubis dropped it.
The god barks joyfully and trots toward the light,
Looking back over his shoulder to make sure I follow.
How long have I been in this valley?
The river has pooled and stagnated.
The flowers on the bank have withered.
All the steep hills to either side are still in shadow,
Slopes of broken rock that cut my feet.
At least I think they did. But the dog-god
Is making his way forward along the riverbank,
Leaving his paw prints in the soft mud,
And I think I can follow, leaning on his staff.
The stream gets wider as we head up the valley;
The water begins to move. Where did it come from,
Flowing away from us now, leading us the way
We were going? What are these red flowers,
Emerging from the mud as the water widens?
I can see my reflection in the stream, lit
By the twin beams of Ra and Sothis,
But I hardly recognize myself.
The further we go, the brighter, stronger,
Hotter the light gets. I lower my eyes till
all I can see are the faithful dog’s footprints,
Bordered by shoots of green, but still
I falter. I cover my eyes against the light
And grip the god’s staff more tightly,
But I cannot go on–until a shadow appears
And rises to engulf me. Hermanubis barks.
The sound of baying hounds and barking beasts
Answers the cynomorphic god. I stumble back
As the pack of them surrounds us, barking,
Panting, whining. But it is not their shadow
Which comes over me, cool and beneficent,
Softening the light so that I can see again,
I can lift my head to see him–my god,
Antinous, the master of the hounds.
He pets Hermanubis and smiles at me.
“Come on, we’re going hunting. Don’t worry
About keeping up. Your feet will be fleet
As Hermes’ if you run with us! Come on!”
Buskins on his feet, a quiver over one shoulder,
A bow with arrow in his hand, he is dressed
For hunting. The dogs prance and bark.
The wings of the caduceus flutter;
Its dormant snakes stir. Can I find
What I am seeking if I run with the hunt?
In the presence of the god it seems possible.
The divine boy turns, whistles; the dogs
Lead off, and in the safety of his shadow,
I run forward, fleet as Hermes, I run, I run.