Friday, August 15, 1997

AN ALPHABET OF WAR

AN ALPHABET OF WAR

She purses her red lips beneath the archway
waiting to be kissed under a storm-laden sky,
a vulture's wingspan completes the doorway. 

Once I tacked vulture wings over the barn door
not expecting their enormous span to engulf me.
Or the stench. The cats lunged skyward like birds.

Over the dead cities of the Fertile Crescent, 
palm trees from an earlier era, pray in the wind.
Mirage water mountaineers the horizon.

Did I gather apples in the Gardens of Babylon 
by the canals, where wild strawberries grew?
This valley cradled a swamp, teaming with life,

where blackbirds whistled drills in the reeds.
Lions guarded the gate as alphabets 
began their ascent from the mud 
and the cuneiform of clay tablets.

Imagine a culture where the aurochs, 
the ox used to plow the field, 
becomes the sound of a baby,
or the barrier of the lips.

The walls of the house, 
the temple in the beginning, 
was the alphabet of lips. 
Mountains on end.

But in the temple. God breathed, 
the sacred ladder of the sky rose up, 
became smoke in the hollow of the hand, 

Became a hook, then an arm, an eye for an eye, 
became a mouth seeking revenge,
a tooth biting off more than it could chew.

It became the head in profile, resh,
pulled back in introspection, or in sorrow.
And see how the monkey turned its back 
to look one more time at Gomorrah?

And that final mark, the tau
that X marks the crosses of the dead, 
and the illiterate mark of the unlettered,
has fresh fodder for its hunger.

A stone angel stands in repose, 
lost in thought, head turned down, 
arm to mouth, in that lovers stance, 
his shields and arrows at rest.

Frozen moment in time. 
Whose lips were waiting for a kiss?
Did a woman come to the city, 
wait beneath the lintel of death?

A woman's lips waiting for the man.
As the red letter a escapes: an ahhh!
merging with God's aspirants.
But the old men objected to this lip service.

Fearing contamination,
they closed the doors to the temple 
of the heart. Slammed shut. The letters of war.
This is what's written in stone. 


8//15/1997
10/15/2015

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