For the Scarab in my Breast Pocket

Isaac Griffin-Layne
Isaac Griffin-Layne is a member of the Class of 2022.

Stone scarab amulet, Egyptian, Late Period, ca. 664-332 BCE, Carnelian, 2.22 cm (L) x 1.84 cm (W), The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, Cohen Collection of Egyptian Antiquities, 3791. Image shows the top (left) and bottom (right) of the scarab.

Poet’s Statement

My aunt died two years ago. She used to visit twice a year from the Czech Republic. She was my last real tie to my Slovakian heritage. When I was a child, I used to lay on a boulder in my front lawn, baking in the Alabama sun, and tell stories about my adventures as an old man. I don’t remember much from back then, but I remember the trees and I remember the people on the river. I responded to the regeneration scarab.

For the Scarab in My Breast Pocket

When I was young, not more than three,

I remembered my life

as an old man. When I was older,

            maybe eight, I wanted to be reborn

                             as a rock.

After she passed, I found a stone scarab

                        in my Janička’s house.

                                    I’ve kept her in my jacket pocket

                                                                                    ever since.

            When I was an old man, before I was young,

                                    I lived in the trees

                                                  on the river.

                                                            I would watch

               as passersby lazily rowed past

                                                                  and I would smile at them.

                           When I am stone

                                                                           I will be still

                                                                                                                           and listen.