Babel

Words unite people because they can communicate. But they also divide people. The Biblical myth of the tower of Babel was that God thwarted the builders by making them speak different languages so they couldn’t understand one another and co-ordinate action; but sometimes speaking the same language divides, or the communication it can bring is seen as dangerous and needing to be suppressed. Words carry power, so powerful people try to control them, as shown by George Orwell in “1984” and “Animal Farm”. In Douglas Adams’ “The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, there is a thing called the Babel Fish, which provides instant translations from any language in the galaxy to any other. The book says that when this was introduced, it caused innumerable wars.

BABEL

Once upon a time

The God took up a bag to a high place

And threw down all the words to ever exist.

They made a pretty pattern on the grass

But people picked them up and traded them

Or fought over possession of a “so”

Until the different patterns hid in forts

And when a wandering “if” came on the wind

And tried to attach to a sentence in a case

A termination was decided on

And doctors came to cut it cleanly out.

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2 Comments

  1. Caddo Veil

     /  December 29, 2011

    Ah, this is good too. I realize that your work is much like many of my long-ago college courses–I may have had no hope of understanding the material, getting a high grade, but if it was interesting to me I counted that a successful experience. Thanks!!

    Reply
  2. I’ve written a story about words and your poem reminded me about it. I love the way you bought the words to life-especially the wandering if!

    Reply

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