The New Babel
Babel of course is the fall of a Tower, followed by a vast, manipulated confusion of words.
Babble is language's beginning, before it's a language, while it's still song.
As Babel is both a ground and a zero, Middle English grund and Arabic zefir, cipher, Gallacized zero - let's 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 world's capitals: fragments of furniture spun from seized cockpits, strangers blinking into craters of Mars.
Babel is Kabul: Babel's a Bible in a motel room dresser in Birmingham, Alabama: Babel's 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 era's only superpower: redound of Gilgamesh, modern day Iraq.
Babel is Baghdad, Babel is Belgrade, Babel's 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: everyone's speech an equally valid muse. Thus: bomb them with butter.
Here is the blade with which Babel's 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 divan's destruction.
Who shaved her cunt with Babel's 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, babble's a word on the tip of your tongue or the trouble stored in a bull's flaring nostrils.
I'm down with the Tower of Babel.
I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's 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 tongue's 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 "it's an accident" and "my god it's intentional", the B1 Bomber they're 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 can't 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 Babel's 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.
"… 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 devastation's of war. Man's 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 earth's 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 it's preceded by a Flood.
Inside a New Mexican waterfall is more than water, is more than gravity, is less than anything this moment's coarsening could ever put in words.
It's natural for water to fall. It's natural for water to fall from cliffs and it's 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 text's main force falls on the text's 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. Bush's address to the Nation, September 20th, 2001.
The Nation wallows in its own grief, the Nation's 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 elites' 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 individual's 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.
It's natural for water to fall. It's 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.
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'"
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
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."
By Leonard Schwartz
QLRS Vol. 1 No. 3 Apr 2002