Poetry Competition 2012 – Portfolio Prize Winner

Babel

by Sharon Black

When the earth began to tremble, I hunkered
in the cellar like they said.
Through a chink: the landing, lost in heat,
hazed in hieroglyphs.
 
Afterwards the street was ghosted
in slivers of words, in phrases buckled or split,
in snatches of alphabet that once sheltered
cities on my tongue.
 
All summer long, the sun scorched
silence into motes
as I sat in rubble, scooping dust,
running my fingers through its mute mounds,
 
adding water to make a clay
as if I could mould a language, swallowing
the dot of an i
as if that might be the cure.
 
The doctors say the tower can be rebuilt.
The therapists say the builders need retraining.
The philosophers say the tower
is not the point.
 
I tell them – this was no earthquake, no act of God,                       
no deliberate conflagration.
The sun’s heat simply melted mortar, shifted
stonework out of place.
 
My bones do not reveal the truth:
within me is the hairline crack
that brought the whole tower down.

Added: 30.03.2012

Judges' comments on this poem

04.05.2012

Well-sustained metaphor.

05.05.2012

Good

09.05.2012

I like the language metaphor and the shape of this poem, as well as its slight mystery.

14.05.2012

Your doctors and philosophers rescued me from drowning in a sea of wretchedness and McGonnagalist cries from the heart!

15.05.2012

the truth behind all the scenes of life...

15.05.2012

Beautifully expressed and quite terrifying. I assume it is a poetic account of a stroke or something similar.

15.05.2012

A revealing and eloquent insight into the world of deep suffering. Very clever imagery, a distinct voice in the midst of Babel's chattering

17.05.2012

I love the imagery and the hidden secret of this poem, the concept is beautiful.

18.05.2012

Some captivating images render this a fine structure of a poem.

21.05.2012

Not trite as poems on personal experience, however stressful, can be. This uneasiness depends on unexpected images and cumulative patterns.

21.05.2012

A haunting use of words and language, tighltly phrased and ironic in that the theme is the struggle for the language of expression.

22.05.2012

so thought-provoking and compelling, with excellent use of language and imagery.

22.05.2012

I think this poem speaks powerfully of the fear, the estrangement & the misunderstanding of mental illness.

22.05.2012

Really like the atmosphere that is evoked; moving from the biblical apocalyptic to the inner life in a haunting movement.

22.05.2012

great use of language..loved the parting verse

23.05.2012

Interesting story clad in some nice words and expressions. However, the poem needs a revision!

24.05.2012

An inner philosophical seeking, of what can the Babel Tower mean or symbolize .

24.05.2012

great imagery demands repeat reading to divine meaning re Tower of Babel and our part in what - it's collapse?

25.05.2012

Interesting use of extended metaphor. Left me behind though I'm afraid.

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