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for the Peruvian Princess Mummy, Elgin Museum, Morayshire

by Helen Allison

Behind a curtain, mounted on a wooden pole
pushed up through her pelvis, she is foetal
under a glass dome, her sharp, little spine
rising to a sugar loaf skull, magic hair gone,
teenage body folded like brown paper
five hundred years old, her crumpled face
resting on her hands. Stolen from a cave in 1845,
she will never awaken to a new life, her soul
wandering in the forests, or falling down
a hole in the earth to the damned.
Holding open the curtain, a foldaway chair pulled up
beside her, they let me sit and sketch her face.
I tell her the forests here are deep and lovely,
that women cut their hair now to show their power,
how all my family’s females are her five foot four,
and why my teenage daughter also bares her teeth.
I leave her for the cinema, to watch a star being born,
and while someone is deciding if she can return home,
I go back and tell her she is goddess of this museum,
that my daughters are my crops, and cannot fail.

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