“Untitled Dagger”


Object: Dagger with crescent pommel. Material: Bronze. Found in Luristan, Persia (Iran). Manchester Museum inv. 1965.44. This dagger dating to the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1,500–1,000 BC) was likely made by nomadic people. It was probably sold during the boom of the Luristan bronzes market during the 1920s after the mass plundering of Luristan tombs, with the Museum purchasing it in 1965. It was used as a symbol of status or decoration rather than a weapon. Photography by Julia Thorne / Tetisheri

This dagger immediately caught my eye because of how beautifully crafted it is, and also because I wanted to write something inspired by violence. However, the object subverted my expectations as I learnt more about it, about its mysterious past and journey to Manchester, its use for decoration rather than a weapon intended to hurt, about what civilization made it, and the symbolism of its design. Eventually I viewed the dagger in a different light, as its past began to unfold. My poem guides the reader on a similar journey to mine. I realised how there were teenagers my age in that civilisation, and I began to wonder if, despite the very different situations, were we similar? What did they think about this beautiful dagger that was a part of life for them? I intended to show how humans are flesh and flawed, that they grow and change, and through the dagger create the connection between our individual journeys to the journeys of the individuals in the past that we analyse so objectively.

“Don’t pass.
Look at me closer,
Though I’m chipped and blue.
I’ve sailed the murky River of Time,
Much longer than you.
Join me on my boat, child
Don’t be scared, I don’t bite.
The moss is mostly safe,
And I was never made to fight.

Come, sit, take these oars,
And in exchange I’ll show those
Faraway lands you
Thought you’d never know.
Not with words,
Use your eyes.
Look a little closer.
Languages die, my daughter,
Metal is much older.

Oh! I may not glint-
In light any longer.
Still, use me as a mirror,
Your vision is getting stronger.

Your face…does this remind you
The love of being born?
I scarcely remember now
The womb forged so warm.

Come on, don’t stop rowing! 
There’s still much more to tell.
The waters getting clearer,
Squint, you’ll see her pearly shells. 

Ah, now heed this part-
You’ve still the beauty of your youth.
They used to put me on belts,
To show my beauty too.

The average person wouldn’t know,
Now that life drifts past afloat.
I was meant to be admired,
Not used to strike a throat.

I’m sure you, reader, have been judged
Wrongly in the past.
And I’m sure you’ve lost your purpose,
Ten times as much as that.

Please don’t cry now,
If you must, cry in the river.
You wouldn’t think humans so tender,
With all the war that they deliver.

But see we’re not so different you and I,
Though you’re flesh and I am bronze.
We sail the same river, 
This river reflects the same sky-” 

The creaking boat idly floating,
Time seemed to stop.
The page has been left blank,
Something has forgot.

Someone lost the papers. The river ate it up.

The dagger sits, stares silently,
Her stolen voice gone mute.
The reflection dispersed,
Wind whistling like a flute.
You bend your neck up to the night,
Unsure now what to do.
The dagger’s crescent handle shines
In the magnificence of the moon. 

Suddenly the river rushes,
Droplets flying in your face.
You hold her by the handle,
Not to lose her into space. 
Tall, glassy towers,
Break through into the sky.
Pines of past demolished, 
Luristan’s mountains passing by. 

“You have no gloves!” alarms the dagger’s guardian,
“You’ll turn her into sand!”
You’ll revive her in a cabinet,
Was this History’s great plan?
They hold her back in the backrooms,
You can’t touch her, she’s so gentle.
The dagger whispers, pleading in darkness,
To be seen is fundamental. 

“Untitled Dagger” by Deniz