On the south west coast of the peninsula,
among Mount Sinai’s arid sandstone foothills,
beneath the stoops of falcons and the gyres
of eagles, where quail and grouse migrate,
and ibex graze on sparse thorn bushes,
where Moses might have berated the Twelve Tribes,
near the temple ruins of Hathor, goddess
of fertility and a golden calf,
are the rubbled remains of turquoise mines.
The Pharaohs prized the stones bluer than skies.
Canaanite prisoners of war worked the seams –
endangered by rock falls, and the sun’s zenith,
chilled by star-filled nights of almost polar cold.
Eschewing their captors’ hieroglyphs
they invented signs to correspond with sounds –
signs, shaped and reshaped, now ubiquitous –
to invoke their goddess, and mark their place
somewhere on earth’s vastness.