'Lapis Lazuli/Sketches from the Nile' by Sarah Holland-Batt | States of Poetry Queensland - Series One


You tilt lapis to your lip –
a day light as wicker.

By the water, bullrushes bow
into sailboat blue, lace-necked

egrets fossick and pick,
and the elements rearrange

a goliath heron's skull to mud.
Up on the embankment

a crouching child scratches
his name into a temple wall.


Ultramarine, lapis lazuli—
today it seems possible to boil

queens to bone and paint,
unlike our childhood saints

whose vigils never cease,
whose faces do not age.

Feluccas rock in afternoon sun,
yellow licks of light hammer

the Nile to scattered scale.
In a valley near Thebes, antique heads

suffocate in starless catacomb,
linen figure-eighting the face,

jewel blue basting the eyelids,
the last cold smears of sky.


A sprint of sandpipers
on mudflats, a low hammock.

Thought flakes away.
History is a headless dog

on the road to Karnak
where a tribe of sparrows

excavate the bones
of old sparrows, digging

in the mortar for a home.
Buried in the stucco there

you might find a blue splinter,
a figure for a mortal skull.

Sarah Holland-Batt