Leigh Faulkner

Building a better world, one learner at a time…

Tearing Down Babylon



Babylon
The whisper coils through the reed tangle
Helixical, sporadic, blunt
With slow mudsuckerish certitude
Venom-laced
The crass, florid caravans
Incessant, insatiable
Merge mercilessly
Carting their own death-means
Spilling wantonly
Decimating the ingenuous, parched
Flower-like men and women
Dusty chimeras, myriad mosaics
Rooted in fanciful gardens
Mud hovels.

The word is enough to turn a world
Gluttonous for gold, frenzied for finery
Upon itself
Seeing
Paradoxically
No differences
Admitting no ideal absolutes
Except want and means
The hard-faced came and went
Like Euphrates floods
Deploring the faceless
Glimpsed but unseen
Mere unacknowledged tokens
Of a place pregnant with ambiguity.

Words contend
Formal
Vernacular
Vie for a hold on life
To hold life
To hold the right to raise the voice
Above a whisper
And die
Naturally.

*

Water
In the beginning
Generations
Spontaneous
Emerged from this river
Dancing on the back of the particular beast
Joyous
Engaged with the mystery, magic
Loud in their recognition
Sweeping in their gathering-in
Suckled by the flood
Love
Blood
Yet
Turning back all they were given.

Earth
In those days
There arose flowers and trees and herbs
Of all kinds
And gardens
And barley and dates
Gave homes to generations
The earth went on forever
Spilling offerings of all manner
With the gentlest incision
And took back
All offerings
Naturally
With a gentle touch.

Fire
Annealing
Kilns cured
More than the charm of grain ewers
Hands carved, curled
With bodily grace
Grace of kneeling
Celebrating
Unquenchable fire
Life
Beauty
Almost promiscuous
Promise.

Air
From the mouths of men and women
A wind
Breathed the sound of names
Soft syllables
Stitching garments
Draping being over things
Substantiating itself
Inspiring the speakers.

*

Sennacherib's tanks and helicopters
Shatter thousands of years
Make them meaningless.

Jericho was a harsh teacher
Timely and proper
Lesson learned
Resentment cultured
Set loose
Xenophobic beast like others
Rampaging across the Crescent
And beyond
Well beyond the walls of Babylon
The Ishtar Gate
Mythic gardens
God-infused ziggurats
Defining
Proclaiming
Lines in the mud
Lines in the sand
Lines through steppes
Through forests
Mountains
Oceans
Sky
Stars
Charted from the Mesopotamian Plain
More substantial than substance
Defining
Proclaiming
Objectifying the unthinkable.

The
Son of Nebuchadnezzar
Gassed the Kurds away
And delighted in stamping his bogus name
On brittle bricks of clay
Little suspecting that tanks and choppers
Were soon to have their way.

*

History
Litany of criminals
Facing Hammurabi
Retaliation, exoneration
Absolute justice
Fairness
Impartiality
Righteousness
Evenhandedness
Fair dealing
Honesty
Integrity

Those in the fields
On the river
Awilu, mushkenu, wardu
Were to toil safely
Confident
In the inscribed stele
Shadowing slave market, mausoleum.

Big Brother
Brother Number One
Brother of Many Faces
Writer of History
Thus, and Thus, and Thus
Expunging genocide
Deleting holocaust
Obliterating killing fields.

The old ask,
How much is to be forgiven?
The old ask,
What distance is to be reached by reconciliation?
The child asks,
Who's to judge?

*

Tongues
Flopping like thousands of snagged fish
Convulsive, silent
Flung on the muddy bank
Dumped across the lethal square
Under the authoritative supervision
Of fishers
Of men
Intent on doing their best.

The silk weavers
Have long incorporated such images
Brightening the bazaar stalls
With banners delightful to bargain hunters
Unwittingly
Encouraging them
To create more reality
To feed the insatiable hunger for art
Imitating life
Spawning it
Spawning more fish-like tongues
Convulsed in silence
More men and women
Struck with appalling awe
By hooks plummeting through the murk of history.

The rule of serenity
Begets rules of tranquillity
Demanding a proxy of silence
Agape in the desert sunrise and sunset.

*

Heaped rubble wildly strewn
Fragments
Ignoring ancient curses
Vaults unsealed
Ghosts lugged off on the shoulders of ghosts
Cylinders secreted away
Exquisite ivory carvings carted off
Chunks
Chips
Bits
In a cynical spiral woven of poverty and wealth
Culture cascaded into collections worlds away
Shards
Splinters
Scraps

The Silk Road exploded in all directions
Taking, taking
Whole armies feeble, careless, blind
Greedy
Slivers
There was no time for children
No time for tenderness
No time for the wind, sun
Moon, rain
No time for memories to take hold.

Hope fermented, intoxicated
Demented
Sifting the dust for charms.

*

How can anyone sleep?
The rattling trumpet of elephants
Charging through narrow streets
Trembling mud-brick walls
The mad scream of hunting birds
Slashing the sky
Turning it bloody with fear
The feral roar of soldiers
Trampling the barley fields
Searching for an enemy
To tame.

The people of Alexandria are happy with the news
Celebrate the stories of victories
Ignore the returning cripples
Struggling at the Lion Gate
Won't pay attention to the smoke of cremation fires.

The young gods are satisfied
Blood joyous in their mouths
Flesh ecstatic between their teeth
Content in sanctifying all sanctions.

The old folks can tell why
All this
Is as it should be
As it must be
But even they forget
Their memories are not without fault
Forget the times they could not sleep.

*

Sovereign Son of the Sun
Brilliant warden of the harvest procession
Benevolent lion gathering in
Embracing
Adherents, disciples
Farmers, smiths, merchants, monarchs
Men, women, children
Unified in praise of the crop
God of the crop
Joyous along the limbs
Over the belly
Of the fertile dragon
Wrenched from the bitter water
Slain by the immortal
Fire Speaker
Melter and molder
One above all
Origin of all truths
All crops ripening in his gaze
All animals bearing abundantly at his word
The procession circling the muddy navel of all being
Celebrants of fire
Loud in praise of the unity of all things
Living and beyond.

*

All word users
Are diligent in their search
Believing unerringly
In the one word
Truer than all others
More honest
Direct, open
Than all the rest
A knifelike word
That can cut to the essence
Peel off accumulated layers
Of sweat and dead cells
A mother-like word
That can nourish
With thoughtless care
Then release
Confidently
A childlike word
That can play
Flawlessly
Between entire worlds
Without the slightest fear.

All word users
Gather on the steps of the Tower
Each flinging a word into the air
Melding, blending
Lexicalizing
An otherwise unthinkable unity.

*

Of the nine thousand
At least eight thousand
Are doomed
All they know
Lost
All their history
Erased
All their intimacy
Forgotten
All their storytelling
Silenced
All their generational love
Destroyed
All their books
Piled
And burned
All their words
Arcane
Unfathomable.

The river is dry
The fields are dusty
The houses have collapsed
Not even the wind has a presence here.

Where are the people who feel abhorrence?
Where are the people who find this unconscionable?
Where are the simple people
Who fashion this world
So eloquently
With simple words?