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Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002

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The New Babel


"Ö it is precisely in the heat of the war that those deep social convulsions take place that destroy old institutions and remold man, that, in other words, the seeds of peace germinate in the devastationís of war. Manís intense longing for peace is never so strong as it is at a time of war. Hence, in no other social circumstance are there so many strong impulses intent on changing the conditions that produce war. Man learned to construct dams when he suffered from floods. Peace can be hammered out only at a time of war, then and only then."
- Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism

How many waves has the moon generated in the Persian Gulf since 1991?

How many waves have the moon and the Atlantic collaborated on since 1491-and-a-half?

What was the total number of breakers to have risen from the earthís seas before life ever began?

Can one figure the number of waves the Pacific has wept since Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

They hang flags the way horses wear blinders; they hang flags in great abundance. They want wars, without realizing it.

They signal war, some realizing it and some without realizing it; they wave flags the way matadors wave red.

Each suffering silently in the silence of his, her, or its own bed; two faucets dripping out of sync; three sinks, four sinks, five sinks, each with a dripping faucet; all the seas whipped and tossed by colossal winds.

The Tower of Babel: landlocked, an abandoned worksite farmers come to quarry.

The Tower of Babel: in the text itís preceded by a Flood.

Inside a New Mexican waterfall is more than water, is more than gravity, is less than anything this momentís coarsening could ever put in words.

Itís natural for water to fall. Itís natural for water to fall from cliffs and itís natural for towers to melt when exposed to overwhelming heat. This applies equally to shacks. October 7th, 2001.

Mud huts have their own way of falling, of being destructively transformed. October 8th, 2001.

The death of peace happened long ago but went unmarked by any stone or number.

The wars come in waves.

Collateral damage is a literary term but the textís main force falls on the textís opponent.

Poetry: death without peace.

August 6th, 1945: unending death.

Dying each death. Refusing to kill. October 11th, 2001.

October 12th, 2001: No, those are my tax dollars.

As even grief gives way to its own self-indulgence. Bushís address to the Nation, September 20th, 2001.

The Nation wallows in its own grief, the Nationís mistakes are glorified, laureled, transformed into heroic moments, sacrificial acts: acts that would have been unnecessary if earlier mistakes had been avoided higher up, among the elites; and indeed it may be said those who died sacrificed themselves for the oil elitesí sins. Fall, 2001.

Neither innocent, nor deserving of the force of those flames: no one deserves the force of those flames, no one is innocent.

Grief. Just grief. Unadorned by heroic gesture, deprived of that heroic consolation the bereaved are presumed to need. But do the bereaved really need to see their dead as heroic? Or do the bereaved need to see their dead loves as those cheated of their lives by a gratuitous dialectic of disproportionate extremes?

Some other kind of gesture: some other kind of mission: some other kind of interior life.

Not the fireman who brought his siren to the Times Square Peace Rally, drowning each speech, each speaker, in the blare of his profession: but the firemen and women digging in the mass grave they were the first to declare a sacred ground.

Inside a New Mexican waterfall is more than water, more than gravity, more than any individualís fatal plunge, something subtly less than a monotheist could ever put in words.

The number of waves the Pacific has wept since Nagasaki and Hiroshima? It continually increases.

Itís natural for water to fall. Itís natural to imagine the end of the world. In imagining the end of the world we protect our way of life. Or so the political class would have it.

In those days in which answers are offered as self-evident, hammer out a new tower of Babel: not the confusion of words but words as the impulse to transmute the silence of dumb agreement, as tools of alienation, no longer numb before a single divine authority or empire.

Let a new tower of Babel touch the sky. Let a new tower of Babel bend responsively to the moon. Ishtar, Inshallah, Quetzlcoatl.      Babble      babble      babble.

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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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