Black Song of Gilgamesh I

by Aidan Andrew Dun


In twelve chapters from
the dead city of Nineveh
from palace-tablets
out of the temple of Nabu
you come striding, Gilgamesh
hero of the hard-driven life
bitterly opposed to death
with that scarred brow
from the knotted line
destiny whipped you with
long ago, complaining.

Matrilineally Anunnaki
architect of stage-towers
slave-driver of the Adamu
engineered in flasks of clay
two-thirds-deity, merciless
taskmaster of citizens:
domineering royal
demigod Gilgamesh
you stare out at modernity
brazenly confident as
you were in the beginning.

Once again yesterday.
Over the water-city
in winding passages
endblown reed-flutes
sob through red dawns.
In a reed-island cathedral
in a maze of waterways
lovesongs reverberate
blue-eyed lyres drone:
distrust of nature
bitter service to the gods.

Shimmering noon.
Dark-skinned women walk
under skies of lapis-lazuli
hurrying to the bull-lover
deflowerer of seven sisters
in the garden-city of Uruk
serviced by canals, where
resins of frankincense
shade vertical sunglare
in gently-smiling Sumer:
heartland of cities.

Who leaves no daughter
with her mother?
In shaded temple
palm-yards of Sumer
days pass slowly
nights taking pleasure
with suntanned handmaidens
slave-girls, prostitutes, princesses:
all your primitive workers
lord of the metropolis
son of Rimat-Ninsun.

annunaki couple frieze