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Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002

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The New Babel


Barry Bearak, The New York Times, December 15th, 2001, Madoo, Afghanistan:

" Perhaps someday there will be a reckoning for this tiny village of 15 houses, all of them obliterated into splintered wood and dust by American bombs. United States military officials might explain why 55 people died here on December 1st... But more likely, Madoo will not learn whether the bombs fell by mistake or on purpose, and the matter will be forgotten amid the larger consequences of war. It is left an anonymous hamlet with anonymous people buried in anonymous graves... America’s own anti-Taliban allies were horrified, claiming the targeting had been mistaken and that hundreds of innocents had been killed. It was ‘like a crime against humanity’, said Hajji Muhammad Zaman, a military commander in the region."

Madoo’s farmers are people in pieces. They’ve become their own fertilizer… assuming the rains come we did them a favor, suggests a cartoon version of Secretary of Defense R. (Big laugh). But there isn’t any need for such a cartoon. We’ve already firmly established the concept of collateral damage.

He who sees with his heart, as Paz would have it, sees Madoo as himself; and who can’t see Madoo with his heart? ("Men with fossil minds, with oily tongues" suggests the cartoonist.)

Every face, a mask; every house a ruin of mudbrick and wood.

Whose sisters were killed? Collateral Damage can’t ever say beforehand. (Terrorists don’t target specific sisters.) (The American attack came in four separate waves.)

After Madoo, to write poetry is barbaric. (Theodor Adorno).

"'We’ve yet to find their bodies.'"
"'Many layers to this rubble'"
"'and now we live with this'"
 "'mystery'" :

Sayeth the elder Mr. Gul, Madoo resident, though he could be speaking of Manhattan.

"Sorrowful old man" "white beard" "furrowed forehead":
"then Paia Gul" "young man" "bitter eyed": "' I blame'"
"'the Arabs'" "'then amended his own'" "'statement'"
"' I blame the Arabs'" "'and the Americans'"
"'They are all terrible people'"
"'they are all the worst in the world'"
"'most of the dead were children'".

Fragrance    bird song.    wheatfields
Mr. Bearak reporting two weeks after Madoo’s apocalypse.
Harvesting scrap metal from bombs,
hopes of surviving winter.

Madoo’s streets: lined with poplars?

Beyond anecdote sounds a hymn we can only hum, humble in our making, the birds scribbling like authors in a startling ephemera of air.

"Walking in the vegetable patch
late at night, I was startled to find
the severed head of my
daughter lying on the ground.

Her eyes were upturned, gazing at me, ecstatic-like...

(From a distance it appeared
to be a stone, hallooed with light,
as if cast there by the Big Bang.)

What on earth are you doing, I said,
you look ridiculous.

Some boys buried me here,
she said sullenly."
- Araki Yasusada, Doubled Flowering, the foothills surrounding Hiroshima, December 25th, 1945

Craters. Dead goat. Scorched tractor.
Unendurable, "unintended", unamerican
     Ax Americana;
Far from Mecca, in Madoo, Tora Bora,
one undamaged room.

Prayer is perfect when he who prays remembers not that he is praying.

Everything dead trembles.(Kandinsky).

Note: E-Mail the reporter, ask if there were ever rows of poplars.

Moonstone sucked into the atmosphere of dwarfed arts; no Hero but also no Nero; the half that faces us is full tonight.

As the Kaushitaki Upanishad has it, "the breath of life is one."

The word "Madoo" is a transcription of a Pashtun name the reporter must have sounded out.

In English, then, "Madoo".

In English the name "Madoo" derives from an old Scottish word meaning "my dove."

[Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3]

By Leonard Schwartz

Editor's note: 'The New Babel' is a work-in-progress.

QLRS Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002


About Leonard Schwartz
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Return to Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002

  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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