Alone, I pace the creaking barge
 Beset by fears I dare not speak;
Despite my quest some doubt remains—
 Is truth or legend that I seek?

I squint into the setting sun
 Past rolled papyrus in my hands;
The Theban Hills quake in the heat
 While twilight cools Egyptian sands.

Dank perspiration soaks my brow
 And drips upon the ancient scroll;
A white kerchief snatched from my vest
 Smears hieroglyphs which taunt my soul.

Oh! curse that thoughtless act of mine
 Which soiled this treasure stitched in lace!
It is a keepsake from my wife
 Which bears a teardrop from her face.

What future loss might I endure
 Besides a birthright pledged by me?
Both friends and loved ones I have shunned
 In search of things which may not be.

Before my conscience can contrive
 A pardon for my reckless choice,
The waters slapping at the hull
 Distract me with a crystal voice…

Were Hebrews really forced as slaves
 To fashion bricks of straw and mud?
  Did God send plagues on their behalf
   And make this river flow with blood?

Did Pharaoh set these captives free
 To wander years through desert sand?
  How did this tribe of God survive
   When trudging towards the promised land?

While questions scourge my littered mind,
 I sense a grinding at my feet;
The barge at last has run aground
 To mark my crossing as complete.

A camel bears my Christian name;
 I muse the sight of such a beast
And how, with every step I take,
 My mode of travel is decreased.

At break of day, my quest resumes
 As we escape the blazing dawn;
My camel’s plodding echoes loud—
 I listen as we travel on…

Did Hebrews really melt their gold
 And hammer forth a golden calf?
  When Moses saw what had been done,
   Was it destroyed with righteous wrath?

Were all its ashes ground to dust
 And mixed within a golden drink?
  Did fragments of that calf survive?
   You must admit, it makes one think…

The Valley of the Kings unfolds
 Beyond the covert road of dust;
A roguish desert breeze pursues—
 Our footprints vanish with each gust.

Again, the aged papyrus speaks
 And whispers of a secret room
Tucked in the shadows of a hill
 Beside an excavated tomb.

With shovels drawn, we bear the task
 And sift lost kingdoms through our hands;
But as the sound of clanging steel
 My doubts ascend like blowing sands…

Are all the ancient rumors true
 About some stolen golden dust?
  Who forged a tiny Apis Bull
   To try and purchase Pharaoh’s trust?

How did the scribes in Pharaoh’s court
 Foretell the idol’s secret cave?
  Why was it buried at his side
   Yet banished from his lavish grave?

A shovel scrapes against a stone—
 Is this the goal for which I seek?
My anxious fingers claw the earth
 And find a door of sealed mystique.

As iron bars dislodge the slab,
 The hiss of ancient air is heard;
At last I gaze upon the bull—
 My fame and fortune rest assured.

But as I touch the golden prize,
 It burns into my weathered flesh!
A mighty wind speaks at the door
 Displacing musty air with fresh…

When pride is valued over love
 No treasure will fulfill your quest;
  You only build upon your worst
   While sacrificing all the best.

Though others may concede to share
 The passions burning in your soul,
  I AM your God, a jealous god,
   And I alone can make you whole."

Those words dispel my wanton quest
 And settle deeply in my heart;
Not willing to be burned again
 I spurn the idol and depart.

I board a steamer bound for home
 And contemplate my long descent;
The kerchief in my trembling hand
 pervades my thoughts with heaven’s scent.

The throb of engines does not speak—
 No doubt remains of my reward;
It lies within a cherished life
 Embraced by loved ones and the Lord.