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The first line- “Let my joy become as the ruins of Babylon Ahmed Souja”- were the closing words of a dream I had. After waking, I could not go back to sleep. Therefore, Ahmed Souja is fictional. Etemenanki is the ancient name of a temple that Nebuchadnezzar II built on the site of what some archaeologists believe was the location of the Biblical Tower of Babel, though that cannot yet be proven with absolute certainty. This poem owes much to John Gardner and John Maier’s Gilgamesh, a translation from Akkadian of the “late” version of the very ancient poetic “series”. Its earliest known versions and cuneiform texts are believed to date back to almost the time of the earliest writings in any language yet deciphered. For a more detailed discussion of its date and translation tailored for the amateur scholar, see the book itself. The term “joy-woe woman” is a quote from Gilgamesh where Gilgamesh himself is described as “the joy-woe man” (Tablet I, Column V, Line 14). This is thought to be a reference to how he goes from great joy to profound grief overnight when his friend Enkidu is laid low with a mysterious illness from the gods. “A distant, fruitless journey” is a metaphor derived from the journey Gilgamesh makes to the Noah-like Utnapishtim in search of the secret of immortality which he does not retrieve. Mourning for seven times seven days and nights is also derived from Gilgamesh’s repeated statement regarding Enkidu: “Six days and seven nights I wept over him/ until a worm fell out of his nose.” (as in Tablet X, Column II, lines 4-5). In ancient Middle Eastern literature the number seven often denotes completeness of some kind. “The one whom my soul/ Loved” echoes Gilgamesh again as he repeats: “How can I keep still? How can I be silent? / The friend I loved has turned to clay.” (as in Tablet X, Column II, Lines 12-13), but more definitely echoes the Song of Solomon, also known as Canticles, in the Bible (as in Ca. 1:7). The title is a reference to the Bible book of Lamentations and the dirge written by David for King Saul and David’s most beloved friend Jonathan upon their deaths (2 Samuel 1:17-27). Published January 2012, can can # 2, Wurm im Apfel Press, Ireland.


Whitesburgby Sabne Raznik18 Oct 2013

Let my joy become as the ruins of Babylon Ahmed Souja
Walked when daylight disappeared finally into night. Let snow
Reside everlastingly over old Etemenanki. I am a
Joy-woe woman, a distant, fruitless journey. Set wailing
For seven times seven days and mourning for
Seven times seven nights. Let sun’s warmth
Turn into cold and blessing into stone. Let rivers
Be formed from my tears which are bitter
As dust is to drink. The one whom my soul
Loved has become another’s.