A Brief History of Babel



A Brief History of Babel

Borders, windows.

Trudging up the steps, I am winded after six flights,
my words smothered in the breathing.

The Gate of God proffers no favors.
When the spirit gives me utterance, what shall I say?

Curiously, no direct link exists between Babel and babble.

A collective aphasia could explain the disruption. One’s
inability to mouth the proper word, another’s
fluency impeded by context.

A stairway terminating in clouds.

Syllable by twisted syllable, dispersed.

Separated in symbols.
And then,

To see the sunrise from behind a tree, you must face
east: higashi, or, a discrete way of seeing
the structure of language unfold.
Two characters, layered. One
thought. Direction.
Connotation. The sun’s
ascent viewed through branches
as through the frame
of a glassless

Complexity in simplicity.
Or the opposite.

I have no desire to touch heaven, but my tongues reach where they will.

Who can know what we say to God, but God?

And the breeze winding through, carrying fragments.


* * *


My poem, “A Brief History of Babel,” was drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was subsequently published at Bonnie McClellan’s International Poetry Month celebration in February 2017.

10 thoughts on “A Brief History of Babel

  1. Thanks for this poem; forced me to think a bit…. which can be frustrating for my “elderly” brain. At times I struggle to understand my own words much less those of others. Their intent or meaning may change by the end of a line and the line may then evaporate. But, at times, when I say exactly what I intended or some unsuspected gem (I am the gemologist) emerges, it is all worth the effort even if they are spoken only into godless clouds. Leo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The story of the Tower of Babel always intrigued me. Is it history written after the fact, or myth written to explain the fact? The obvious confluence and later divergence of language, the similarities, obstructed by an almost intentional confusion—the sound of neh meaning yes, or a nodding head meaning an opposing no. The story certainly explains the chaos, but history claims otherwise. Language appears to have migrated from the Indus Valley, according to Chomsky and his linguists. And the Bible is suspected to explain away the power of the Babylonians over a captive Israel. But, then—there is always room for wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

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