Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002

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The New Babel


Babel of course is the fall of a Tower, followed by a vast, manipulated confusion of words.

Babble is languageís beginning, before itís a language, while itís still song.

As Babel is both a ground and a zero, Middle English grund and Arabic zefir, cipher, Gallacized zero - letís call it Ground Zero.

Babel is defiance of the demiurge and hubris of the heart, ziggurat aimed at suns yet unborn, inside the mouth the mouth as desire: man creates gods.

Where before stood the North and South Phallus now yawns a smoldering Cleft, smoke subject to variable breezes.

The smoke contains bodies; we breathe one another. Thus, Babel is Kabul. We breathe one another.

As Ares broods over all the worldís capitals: fragments of furniture spun from seized cockpits, strangers blinking into craters of Mars.

Babel is Kabul: Babelís a Bible in a motel room dresser in Birmingham, Alabama: Babelís the Battery Park Esplanade and the people waiting in the airport in Santo Domingo.

Babel: the most beautiful girl in all of Kashgar, black haired, black eyed, maybe 13 years old? In a gay red dress, gazing admiringly at the foreign lady chance brought to her alley, gently, tentatively, mouthing a single phrase in English, addressed to that lady: "How do you do"?

Babel is mettlesome, its scrotum melted some, our mad extravagant metropolis, not bashful, still seeking the heights.

Babel was Mesopotamia, its eraís only superpower: redound of Gilgamesh, modern day Iraq.

Babel is Baghdad, Babel is Belgrade, Babelís our backyard, a World that incessantly Trades names with itself.

Babble in three languages, babble in three thousand: put on a bib.

A baby babbled of lions eating books. And those lions ate books: Babel is books on the shelves of the Bibliotheque Queer.

No rabble in Babel: everyoneís speech an equally valid muse. Thus: bomb them with butter.

Here is the blade with which Babelís abolished, here are the furrows where Babel begins, which no seed can boycott.

Babel rinses its parents in sorrow, Babel rewards its makers with slowworms, Babel is birth, rebuilding with cranes all sorts of crimes, the way life is a dagger, the way all wars begin with some divanís destruction.

Who shaved her cunt with Babelís boxcutter: born from the rubble, "ba" is for father, "ma" is for mother, sacred baboons patrolling her precincts.

Babel is Buddha dispensing with words, Babel is mating, thunder, whale blubber and rain, Babel is blame, Babel is ax, Babel is Bush-ben-Laden and fame.

As tall facades crumble like rockface, so many unbound mountains, Captain FBI simply offers "My bad".

Babble of waves, babble of wharves, of merchants and stores, city proud of its iron and brains: babble is braggart, babble is pulpit, babbleís a word on the tip of your tongue or the trouble stored in a bullís flaring nostrils.

Iím down with the Tower of Babel.

I canít even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know thereís a subway handy or record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life.

Is stumble, is stutter, is stone smooth as skin, towers swaying the way they sway in the wind, as a person is always his tongueís own half-witting puppet.

Is the baker whose cakes are too hot, whose pancakes are unscaleable, whose loaves are uncanny and sprinkled with pain.

Is flesh covered with brine, is bitumen cracked with fever, wolves in the blood howling to the gibbous heart.

Babel is the beaten ballplayer who goes ballistic; Babel is an icicle in your mouth as melodious as a flute, as percussive in its dripping as drums.

Tower whose twisted tendrils resemble the trellis and grapes, destruction demanded by the Dionysus of east meeting west, an unwillingness to consent to any loss of the self.

Babel is nothing but the celebration of words, talk armed with torches, dreams capsized by bigger dreams, the truth of each crater, the "bang bang" that wakes one from dream,the gap between "itís an accident" and "my god itís intentional", the B1 Bomber theyíre building and building, the backlash and the backlash to backlash and the backlash to backlash to backlash, O Barrio of Barriers, our republic of fear.

Enough elasticity to move with the wind, enough stiffness so that people canít know the building is moving: Babel is bubblegum stuck to your face.

Babel is presence, Babel is absence: nothing but the celebration of presence. No mas to sacred explosions, no mas to the occupation of land: sacred explosions, the occupation of land.

Babel is how a man howls as he leaps from the heights, where no other man can hear him; Babel is that moment of imagining one can fly, a brevity that lasts forever in Babelís unconscious.

Babel is a ray of sunlight crashing earthbound, a rivulet of rays crashing earthbound, a field mined with light.

The Tower of Babel: word up.

If architecture is frozen music, then these melted, smoking shards are its melodies, its incandescent burial grounds - Babel become what begs you to sing it.

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QLRS Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002


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  Other Poems in this Issue

Instructions From A Serial Killer
By Felix Cheong.

By Ng Shing Yi.

The Schoolgirl Kills Herself After Failing An Exam
By Gilbert Koh.

Old Folks Home
By Gilbert Koh.

The Couple Next Door
By Gilbert Koh.

Train Ride to Singapore
By Gilbert Koh.

By Low Ying Ping.

Dutch Disease
By Peng-Ean Khoo.

Hors Duh
By Peter Loh.

Mountain Air
By Jerome Kugan.

Grandmother, The Bride
By Karen Low.


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