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Mortal Coil


The tablets of Enheduana’s Exaltation of Innana are lost
In the bombing of my kitchen.
History’s first published poet
Daughter of Sargon of Akkad circa
twentyeighth century highpriestess of the goddess
gone down into layers of
dust & grease. Cracked. Illegible.
I found them in the Tehran bazaar
Cuneiform cylinder seals alabaster
& agate. Mehdi Khan rolled them out
on silly putty or something crisper than
new money. The first published poem
& already it’s War in Iraq
literary equivalent of Picasso’s Guernica
limbs & bulls exploding & gods
drifting overhead like turkey vultures.
Like Gilgamesh brooding on violent
death of his sidekick Enkidu.
Visits Hell. Finally discovers herb
Of immortality then loses it.
He’s drowning his grief in a bar
& the barmaid Siduri the goddess
of barmaids says take it easy
life is short have another beer.
But the tablets of Gilgamesh are
Smashed to smitherness in the midden
of my filing system. The monster
Humbaba has a face of entrails
à la H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu proof
the Sumerians came from Outer Space
but the evidence was obliterated
in one direct hit on the site where
the opening scene of The Exorcist was
shot. Artifacts were looted including
occult extradimensional weapons of mass
destruction such as slavery for unpaid debt
to temples that were also banks.
Sir Leonard Wooley found them beneath
six feet of silt—the Universal Flood—
sealed alive in the King’s tomb
to serve him in Hell.

II. A Mess of Ptomaine in Mesopotamia

ambulatory schitzopoesis the brazen head of very cheapjack
prophecy-a-day every
Baphomet’s Skull
buried under London where it never ceases its
Hebephrenic babble

the me that is you.

But paranoia criticism breathes no rosegarden of the mysteries. Oh no


Baghdad you

Had the youthful but ivoried panache of oval cigarettes
soporific as
naps on divans in winter
solariums listening to some
Oum Khalsoum on
reel-to-reel or
Radio Cairo

yet another naturally inadequate trans-
scription of unwritten
& wordless sighs.

Give us back our fezzes they say give us back our heads
medieval secretions
still unbespoken
& the pharaohs whose power
is absolute because
they’re so conveniently

Verse for all occasions wedding funerals bar-mitzvahs
viva voce plus handprinted broadsheets
available by the gross. Celebrate ye
rites de passage with verbal
rembetica—the ‘oud of
Mounir Bashir

or simply stunned silence
clay mixed with the blood of martyrs
& moulded into little plaques
sealed with the third eye
or meerschaum carved into Turk’s heads
smouldering with the latakia of
divine brain
suffumigations. There’s no repetition
in the realm of theophany
or smoke

Iblis invented the exact copy.

Oh no



the past is always changing & initiation must come from animals in
the invisible world
from dreams perhaps
of Osiris
the mummy with a hard on
or from Hafez
by opening his divan at random
on his marble tomb in the usual
rosegarden in Shiraz.

If photography steals souls by uncanny copying &
if that which is doubled
is dead then what about music?

Will there be music in the ruins like those cello solos
in Sarajevo?

At least the Ottomans were decently rotten.

The experiment with irreproducible results
is precisely the one to
take seriously

so throw away yr rosary & stain yr prayer carpet with wine
or so says
a usually reliable source
known to enjoy the confidence
of the Sultan
of the Unseen
the gray eminence of the Shadow Cabinet
of the régime in exile of the Pretender
to the Hidden Imamship
who fields no battalions & never leaves
the Emerald City

but sits on his throne with his cap askew facing in an auspicious direction & doing
absolutely nothing.
In other words the absent subject
rather than the present object
the rose of bathos
so poor it might almost be mistaken
for a form of
or else be ripped to gobbets
by rabid dogs or cannibal gods
or policy wonks or prozac
in the reservoirs.

I’ve wanted to tell you of my love
since 1964
but every time I take up
my burden you die
in another war

O poet of Baghdad where I’ve never been
except in your dreaming

III. The Death of Abu Nuwas

O for a PhD in clouds & smoke.
I wasted
my life because I never learned Sumerian.
Why bother to hold together rather than
dissipating statistically? Why this
halfway house between form & chaos?
Is Sumerian a remnant of Atlantaean?
Eridu & its fish god Enki a colony
of lost Atlantis. Deltas look like
smoke. Stones move. Metals
feel fatigue.

The Garden of Eden we all agree was in Southern Iraq—i.e.,
the very spot
where the long dreamtime of living stones
was overthrown. Two Angels of Industry
guard its gates like cracking towers
symbolized by the twin columns
of Freemasonry—Jachin & Boaz.

Iron we could not endure iron
its negative mesmerism drove us
away toward farther hills always
westward or into the very earth’s
souterrains & painted caves
& barrows

Now we are smokier cloudier like objects that might be
particles or waves or perhaps
strange attractors
morphogenic fields with personalities
but unhinged from Time

our language unrelated to yours came from the sea
beneath the sea
& after the Flood
Kingship descended again
a second time from Heaven
to the Third Dynasty of Ur
& began as Civilization always begins (& ends)
with cannibalism & human sacrifice.
Now Sumeria is everywhere
6000 years for the virus to spread
all the way to the sterilized Moon
we are sometimes mistaken for the Dead

a bureaucracy with ramifications going back 6000 years the same
offices now buried deep beneath
tells long given over to dust
& cluster bombs—but we
are too deep. We sit
at our desks in dandruffy fezzes
& behind us stretch endless
subsub-basements stuffed
to eternity with government bumpf
dating back to cuneiform days
of blood & clay

Sixty centuries gives you a mere 1800 generations
we know who you are
& what yr family owes how many
babies to Moloch. The archives
(cough cough) go back to Gilgamesh’s
rule in Ur of the Chaldees

& we are wraiths you can see thru sometimes
our features shift
like smoke
a kind of revenge
for lost Atlantis.


Peter Lamborn Wilson

Peter Lamborn Wilson is an American anarchist author, primarily known for advocating the concept of Temporary Autonomous Zones.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2006

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