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 Monthcelebration in February 2017.



8 thoughts on “A Brief History of Babel

  1. BABEL

    We were taught to tell the truth, and indeed the truth prevailed.
    It won us several wars because we swore by what we said.
    Our rivals’ grand pronouncements read like made-up tales;
    Too plausible, and forever cut from the same cloth as their leaders’ suits.

    Wealth and power were ours. Our honesty had paid off handsomely.
    We were the brokers the rest of the world saw as theirs.
    And so we decided to build a tower dedicated to this virtue’s attributes.
    The Bar-bell Tower, it was to be called, celebrating the strength

    Of reason when it simply weighed the balanced arguments,
    Came to a decision and upheld a verdict grounded in veracity.
    Down went the foundations, firm as truth itself, deep as trust.
    The tower, being round, couldn’t be supposed to have a corner.

    Still an initial stone was laid, anointed with an honest person’s blood.
    Plants began to congregate around the site. The red lamps on the cranes
    Proclaimed their presence to the night in anything but an underhand
    Manner. Mabel Babel, our elected leader, assigned sufficient funds

    For work on the tower to continue, however our economy might fare.
    Mabel saw no reason why the edifice should not become a process.
    Let us build the truth forever! This was the battle-cry that won her
    Several more elections. Soon enough the tower’s rising coronet

    Could be detected above the roofs of the hovels in its neighborhood.
    Then Mabel’s spouse, the CEO of Babel Properties, came up with
    The Truth Development Project. Rehouse every hovel’s occupant
    In brand new blocks appropriate to the core ideal; sincere,

    Salubrious flats, or rather apartments, which would provide a setting
    Gentrified in accordance with the up-and-coming prospects of
    A zone improved by the truth. Bulldozers then went about the work
    Of very decently flattening the horrid little places people had actually

    Lived in; dingy, dated businesses were boarded up prior to their
    Demolishment. The area began to look up. Up was the only way to look.
    But all that malarkey about the rehousing, that was a fib, albeit
    Justified by expedience, since bold designs are governed by priorities.

    It turned out that it could be argued that those whose homes
    Had gone were now homeless, their presence a burden on
    The borough. Better elsewhere. Nor was it right that businesses
    So meagre should be relocated anywhere remotely near this monument

    To our integrity. Wide-windowed there, luxurious and lofty,
    The brand-new blocks positively glowed in the light of an approving sun
    As the tower continued its progress onwards and upwards.
    Then came an announcement, reminding us that the tower was in fact

    The Tower of Babel. Testament to Mabel. How could we have not
    Got that right in the first place? Higher now than all surrounding
    High-rise buildings, upwards and onwards, it rose, to challenge
    Heaven itself in overweening haughtiness, as, in a perfectly natural way,

    One lie led to another. The Babels failed to disclose their interest
    In selling off apartments to our rivals, pocketing back-handers
    From contractors while assuring those residents who still persisted
    In eking out an existence in the shadow of its curvature their

    Future was secure, even as the buses came to expedite their departure.
    These days no one sees us as an honest broker. We’ve no idea
    What to believe. A mortar of lies appears to hold things together;
    Plausible enough, utterly consistent with the weave of Mabel’s tweed.

    Under the cranes, new struts keep erecting more height.
    But in the haze shimmering above generators, everything wobbles.
    On site, arguments break out. Foremen can’t be heard above the noise.
    Construction vies with collapse. Everyone, everyone babbles.

    Liked by 2 people

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