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The Throne, Restored

The Throne, Restored
A response to Juel’s oil on canvas, Pharao of the Mountains
by Shelly Bryant

from Himalayan peaks
a desert watched

an ankh-shaped shadow
from a dangling earring
wavers in the midday glare

beneath dark horns
on a sun-blanched skull
a black eye opens
and surveys its surroundings

high on the mountain
in a distant land
the hermit retreats to his cave

stroking the cold surface
of his porcelain vessel
he whispers, at long last
the time has come

he chants in a tongue
long unheard on the earth
from beneath his feet
at the mountain’s root
a slow rumble of response
rises to hail him

a breeze blows down the slope
gathering momentum
in minutes
a sandstorm wracks the desert

newly formed flesh
grows from the chin
spreading over bleached face bones

tongue and lips, remade
take up the chant
the ground opens
the mountain starts to sink
the sky is rent
and the hermit starts to laugh
     ever so softly

* * *

Shelly Bryant divides her year between Shanghai and Singapore, working as a teacher, writer, researcher, and translator. She is the author of  four volumes of poetry, Cyborg Chimera, Under the Ash, Voices of the Elders, and Harps Upon Willows, a pair of travel guides, and a translation of Sheng Keyi's novel 《北妹》 (Northern Girls) for Penguin Books. She has five more translations coming out in the next year.

What inspires you to write and keep writing?

Writing has always been easier for me that speaking, less fraught with shyness and awkwardness. When writing, I feel free to be myself, and also enjoy the structure that the conventions of good writing provide. Even on the days when writing is frustrating, I find comfort there. It is a place of quiet that can soothe the heart and mind, even as it is a place that can excite and thrill. I suppose, for me, writing is where I am most at home.
Shelly's poetry has appeared in journals, magazines, and websites around the world, as well as in several art exhibitions, including dark 'til dawn, Things Disappear, and Studio White • Exhibition 2011.  You can visit her website at