The Tall Tower

Tonight I have for you a tall story about a very tall tower

Some say it happened long long ago in Mesopotamia in a time when myth and magic melded seamlessly with history.

The people of Mesopotamia were excellent mathematicians and astronomers. The thinkers of the lands gathered together to share ideas. They spoke of building a great observatory: the tallest structure in the world, that would tower up into the heavens. Together they aspired to map all of the stars and planets in the firmament and to even meet with the gods face to face

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Yahweh, the God of the Israelites was angered at the arrogance of this plan. He saw that if the people succeeded in this then nothing would stop them from discovering all the secrets of the universe. After building their fantastical observatory, it would be a matter of mere moments to Yahweh, just a blink of His eyes,  before the descendants of these earnest scientists mastered air and wing, and flew up into His domain. The Sacred Veil between man and God would be torn asunder. No, it must not be.

Thus Yahweh dispatched angels to confuse the language of these men and women: to confound and thwart them. Soon the tower-builders plans, like their wonderful observatory, crumbled as they struggled to communicate:

‘ What? What is it, man? Don’t mumble and babble like a drunkard’ said one.

‘Speak clearly’ said another, ‘I can’t understand a thing you are saying, my friend’

‘Nan degozarimasu ka? Nani nani nani ga okitorun dosu?’ cried another in frustration.

‘Shuhatha, shuhatha?’ Yelled out another in utter confusion.

And this, so the story goes, is how the peoples of the world came to speak a multitude of languages, unintelligible to each other.

Does this terrible tale sound somewhat familiar to you? You probably know it as ‘The Tower of Babel’

I quote:

‘Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly” They used the bricks instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered all over the face of the earth.’

Genesis 11: 1 – 9. The rest is no mystery. It is no doubt etched into the minds of all of us who heard this tale as children.

I remember hearing this story first in Primary School Scripture. ‘How wonderful if we ALL spoke the same language. We’d always be able to understand each other,’ I had thought at the time. I was very different back then to my present self. Now I realise that speaking the same language does not guarantee that we will understand each other, communicate our ideas well, or accept what we hear, despite understanding the words themselves.

Now, having had a range of experiences with a variety of languages, I can honestly say that, if this myth about the origin of different languages were indeed true, our human world be all the poorer for it.

A lack of diversity boxes in the imagination and limits our world view to one. In my own experience languages are like windows in a tall, tall tower. Each window provides a different view, looking out over a different landscape or garden. We might be able to describe these gardens and landscapes to each other, but without seeing through the window for ourselves, we can never truly know the depth of beauty that lies beyond each one.

I like to think that the Story of the Tall Tower has another dimension to it: That it doesn’t simple tell the mythological origin of languages, but is also a metaphor and warning for us all: that sometimes we may THINK we are speaking the same language when we are not.

The Quran doesn’t spell out the tale of the Tower of Babel like the Bible does. But it also has quite a different stance to the Old Testament on different tribes and peoples.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. 

Surah Al-Hujurat verse 49:13.

According to the late Moroccan feminist writer and Sociologist, Fatema Mernissi, the original Arabic word for ‘know’ here is not ‘know’ in the Biblical sense, or a modern sense. It means something like to learn. Thus according to the Quran: God has made us different so that we may learn from each other.

I wonder if such a lofty ideal is truly achievable in our present atmosphere of fear and tribalism.

If only…if only we could truly learn from, rather than fear and steal from each other. It would be a wondrous achievement: even more so than any tall tower or journey to the stars.

Thank you

 

 

 

 

 

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Ode to a Bastard

He went to the funeral
To make sure it was true
The arsehole had finally
Got what was due
And he went to dance on his grave

 

Early in his career
There was a real glut
Of specialist men
He was nothing but
A cog in the machine

 

The bastard underpaid him
For two decades or more
The greedy bastard
Didn’t consider the economic hardship
He had had to endure
As a result

 

With a growing young famiy
He had no real choice
But to put up with the bullying
And not raise his voice
In protest

 

So he went to the funeral
To make sure it was true
The arsehole had finally
Got what was due
And he went to dance on his grave

 

The bastard stole his work
Palmed it off as his own
Meanwhile he struggled
To pay his home loan
And to just put food on the table

 

The bastard was fine
Bastards never quite die
They live on in the the hurt they cause
Long after they lie
Cold and stiff in their graves

 

He nearly lost his home
In the Keating recession
The fair treatment now
Is hardly concession
For what he and his family suffered

 

So he went to the funeral
To make sure it was true
The arsehole had finally
Got what was due
And he went to dance on his grave

 

In a position of power now
He refused to emulate
The abuse and hardship
That had been his own fate
For much of his career

 

He made sure to be fair
And not perpetuate
The kind of hurt
That made him so hate
That greedy bastard of a boss

 
Food, morgage and bills
Over these his wife cried
His kids missed out on things
That had to be denied
Experiences that he’d wished to provide

 

The mistreatment he got
On some sociopathic whim
Hurt wife and kids too
It wasn’t just him

 

So when the bastard died
He made sure it was true
The arsehole had finally
Got what was due
Yes, he went to the funeral
To make sure he was dead
And he went to dance on his grave

Sakura-fubuki – Spring 94

桜吹雪 (Sakura-fubuki) – Spring 94

My first time in Japan

Spring 94

I was young

Still a dreamer

Didn’t know I was a poet

Back then

Didn’t realise I’d always

Felt too much

As poets are want to do

Standing under cherry trees

With my host sister and friend

They wanted to play catch

I wanted to simply stay here

Forever

The air is still cool

But the sun smiles on us

Warm and welcoming

A slight breeze blows

Pink petals fly and dance

Around us

Before falling

Upon our heads

Like confetti

Like blessings from above

‘Yuki mitai‼’ I exclaim

‘It’s like snow‼’

I say in awe

Not yet knowing

The word

‘Sakura-fubuki’

Pink petals rain down

Like a storm

Of beauty

Like a dreamscape

We’re part of

A living snow globe

I twirl around

Arms up in awe

On the day

Of my first sakura spring

‘Sakura-fubuki’

For H – a Prayer-Poem

FOR H

– Part 1

After the Long Dry
Snuggled up safely
In my bed
I listen

Rain on the roof
Waterdrops drumming
On tin

The sound contains quiet
Like snow
It muffles
The cacophany
Of traffic, barking dogs
Quietening my restless mind

My thoughts turns to you
What sort of bed do you lie in?
Is it raining there too?
Tonight on Manus

– Part 2

My friend
‘Tis not only the heavens
Who weep for you

You taught me to pray again
What else can I do for you?
But pray

May the hearts of those
Who control your fate
Soften
As the soil is softened by
Rain from heaven

May true justice prevail
And soon
At last
You will be free

Then renewed
Like the earth
After flood-breaking
Showers

Amen and Ameen

Temporary

Each time
It feels
As if the pain will go on
For an eternity

Or until
I can no longer endure
And end it all
By my own hand

Anxiety:
Like a festering wound
Never healing
Mind reeling

Racing
Pacing
Empty rooms of memories
They haunt me so

And then the fear morphs
From frenetic overthinking
Frantic seeking
For peace of mind

Into a deep sinking feeling
A weight on head and heart:
Darkness
Hopelessness

As if the sun
Has hidden her face
The end is surely nigh
Soon I must die

For I cannot go on like this
I whisper to myself
Yet somehow
Like a shadow
Or cloud
It passes and

I emerge:
A new butterfly
Drying velvet wings
On green bough

A silent prayer forms:
Thank you God
In my darkest hours
Help me to truly know
‘This pain will pass’

Vampire and The Maligner

Wherever I travel
Cruel spirits two
Hound and haunt me
Torment and taunt me
Casting snares before me

Vampire and The Maligner
Are their names

A heavy shroud is Vampire
Wrapped about my person
Like a hug from the grave

A mountain of lead is Vampire
Heavy upon my head and heart

Vampire
Like a blackhole sucking light
Or a millstone about my ankles
Dragging me deep into
The abyss

Where I drown
Over and over
Until I beg for escape and
Death’s beckoning hand
Appears as a prayer
Upon desperate lips

Vampire clings to my neck
Droning into my ear
‘Momento Mori’
Whispering tales of evil
Of every kind

Drinking my lifeblood
Poisoning me slowly
With his dark words
Of woe, war and hopelessness

‘Til I wander
Lost and aimless
Like a wraith
Blowing in the wind;
A mere shell
Sheathing a skeleton

Meanwhile The Maligner
Chatters without reprieve
Her intention is
To confuse and deceive

She conjures up images
Fantastical and far-fetched
Into the air
Fashioning them
Into the semblance of truth

Undermining
All that I thought was true
Making me doubt
What I thought I knew

The Maligner, restless trickster she
Cackles in my inner ear:
‘Run. Hide away.Beware.’
Peril abounds on every path
Danger lurks there
For everything is fear
And Nowhere is safe
For you

‘Stay alert‼’ shreaks she
‘For all will try to hurt you
For everything is fear
Perilous path, danger is there
And there is no haven for you
Anywhere

You are:
Hopeless
Stupid
Nothing
Useless

Her cruel whispers
Relentless
Ruthless
Callous and cruel
Malicious
Malevolant

She relishes hurting
Rendering me helpless
Agitated
Incapacitated
She squashes me
Like a caterpillar
Under foot

Sea Moon

(For Joel)

Riding and gliding
Swept by wave and whim
The homeless, strange creature
Travels seemingly aimlessly
Borne on ocean currents
In the depths and shallows of sea
Gliding, riding, never residing
In a single place for long

A myriad of starfish
Creep by floating moons
Some white, some bright
Red, blue, blooming
Like a bouncing alien species
Of indeterminate identity

Octopi swim by
Perusing the slightly amusing things
Squid battle for food
A lovelorn whale sings

The sea absorbs all
As it flows and forgets
Home
To the innumeral creatures
It begets

Silently circling jellyfish
Listless corals
Gracefully dancing seahorse
Quiet in the face
Of such immenseness

Never-ending body
Churning, turning
Swirling, flowing on
Eternally
Oh, Mother Sea

Bobbing blobby bodies
Stinging balloons of blue
Moons of the sea
Riding tide and wave
Here and beyond

A giant umbrella
Tendril-like tentacles
Twirling, swirling
Dancing amidst the depths

Their faces are many
Their purpose a mystery
Curious creatures of the sea
Drifting wherever
The waves carry them

Lanterns of the sea
Glide in the silty current
Exuding bioluminescency
Gentle bursts of energy
Before they are swallowed up
By turtle

Lucid Dreams

The ocean dreams so lucidly
It ebbs and flows on endlessly
Blue sky and waves kiss tenderly
Sweet lovers for eternity
And more

The times and tides flow fluidly
Memories borne away on the sea
She absorbes it all for you and me
Washes it all away
Into oblivion

The ocean dreams so lucidly
Bearing hopes of humanity
She sees, she hears, she knows it all
From the beginning to our fall
Oh destiny

You swim and swirl upon the sea
As blood flows through circulatory
We need of you unconditionally
To live

Our love for her
Will swell
Swim strong and deepen
And she gives birth
Gives life
Gives sweet oblivion

I am a droplet in a wave
Tumbling, turning, twisting
Flowing, flooding, floundering
In memory
Fear not:
Our deep, dark mother
Will forget for us

Our love for her
Will swell
Swim strong and deepen
And she gives birth
Gives life
Gives sweet oblivion

Like the moon
Our life does wane
‘Tho we may struggle on in vain
To live on for eternity
Forevermore

And like the waves
We flow on in a sea
From eons past
To now
From you into me
On and on

We are a tide
From whom we can’t be free
So dream on and on so lucidly
Dear mother
Dear dark, deep sea

Our love for her
Will swell
Swim strong and deepen
And she gives birth
Gives life
Gives sweet oblivion

The Genie and The Fox

Like a genie into a bottle
I’m gunna stuff you in this box
When I’m expecting you to be a ferret
Don’t you bloody-well dare be a fox

You should adhere to my world view
I’ll tell you what you need to do
I know full well what is best for you
So listen up, my friend

 If you like men you can’t be bi
It’s just not done
I’ll tell you why
I’m crumbly like cookies
With a head full of rocks
And ambiguity completely knocks
My confidence to the ground

You need to listen up
I’ll tell you what to do
It’s on you now
To uphold my world view
I need your foot to fit into this shoe
Don’t say it’s not your size

Like raindrops in the sunshine
You should show a rainbow
You should show you’re proud
Don’t hide behind a cloud
Don’t fear the storm
Of fists or hate
Be brave stand up
Come on, mate

 
I know little of adversity
But insist that you just listen to me
In my second of university
I already know it all

I only want to save you
To save you from your self
So squeeze into this jar I have
Sit right here on the shelf

You just can’t be a shapeshifting fox
I need you to fit in this here box
I am your ally, I have your back
You should follow me
You should change tack

I am so liberal-minded
It’s my identity
I’ll be the one to push you
Dear pet minority
I’ll decide the what’s right and wrong
With arrogance and certainty
I can’t let you just be yourself
So listen up, my friend

I know who you are
Much better than you, truly
I need my my little pigeionholes,
Damn it, don’t be so unruly‼

I need you to be how I think you should be
In this day and age you need to be free
The definition of that
Is decided by me
Don’t let me down, my friend

Like a genie into a bottle
I’m gunna stuff you in this box
When I’m expecting you to be a ferret
Don’t you bloody-well dare be a fox

I’ll close the lid and lock you down
Don’t look at me like that
Don’t talk back or frown

Like a jack-in-the box
You’ll give me a fright
Just listen up, friend

Let us not fight
You know I’m right
And I know what’s best for you

茶々 (Cha-cha)

‘How do you take your tea?’
He asked
His voice a deep drum

I stood, drinking
The rich colour of his skin
Drunk on the sound of his voice

In the small city of Soka
In Saitama, Japan
I happened to find
My neighbour hailed from Ghana

I ‘took’ my tea with milk
Sugar too, back then
Sat together in his room
Talked about what
Made us roam so far
Away from family and country
So far from home

A thousand memories of tea
Come flooding back to me
Te, cha, chai
Ocha, kawa, shay

Pre-primary school
I went around my neighborhood
Seeking company and a friend

‘Will you play with me?’
I asked Mr Wheatley, Mrs Finley
And more

At last the softly-spoken Mrs Oliver
Said ‘I don’t think I can PLAY with you
But come in for a cup of tea, if you like?’
Thus saving me
From another long day of solitude

Tea, te, chai
With sugar and milk
A side of bikkies
Or slice or cake or pie

Straight up
‘As it comes’
Or with cardamom
Milk and cinnamon

Hot boiled chai
Te, tea, shay

Oolong and English
Te, tea and kawa
Koucha and Ryokucha
From green to red colour

Leaves from the same plant
Just prepared different ways
Help us get through tough days
Calming to our senses
Dear Camelia Sinensis

Good with bikkies, cakes or pie
Good old tea, te and chai
Over cups of you
We laugh, divulge secrets
We bare our souls, we cry

Oh, trusty friend tea,
Te, tea, ocha, chai
You’re there for every hello
And for many a goodbye
Thank you Camelia Sinensis
Ryokucha, tea, shay