Tuesday, August 7, 2012

David Graham

A Wind from Behind Afflicts Him

If a man's eyelids thicken and his eyes shed tears, it is [the illness known as] "blast of 
the wind."  If a sick man is relaxed during the day, but from dusk he is sick for the night, 
it is [the condition called] "attack of a ghost." . . .  "His mind is continually altered, his 
words are unintelligible, and he forgets whatever he says, a wind from behind afflicts 
him; he will die alone like a stranger."
--Paul Kriwaczek,  Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization.

When you look someone right in the eye
and they smile, recognizing you,
but you have no idea, then a wind from behind
afflicts you.  When you wake with formless dread,
you are sleeping with unborn souls.  If exactly at noon
you feel a powerful urge to spit at the unruly sky,
you are suffering from the Rage of Babylon.  
When you cease laughing and hear a woodpecker
knocking its fool head against a dead ash,
the dark river is at least up to your dirty shins.
But if in the wind you hear your departed brother
calling, that's a dappled gift of the gods.  And 
by the time you remember the name you've been seeking,
that is the Hour of the Moon, unless you are feverish,
in which case your children shall eat of the Grain
of Effacement and mix your ashes with restless dust.