Picture credit: Jurgen Brocan
Ranjit Hoskote’s The Atlas of Lost Beliefs was published by Arc in April and is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Summer 2020.
Letters from Ugarit
Fire saved these words cut into clay corded sounds of desert and surf gouged into flesh Father look the enemy’s ships the Sea People my cities torched These words saved no one not sender not receiver My country burning my chariots lost Words that did not carry across the numb sand Your messenger saw our threshing floors charred our vineyards ripped up from their roots Messenger, we could have been howling on the moon’s far side With His barbed whip Marduk cut down my guardian angel He broke my shield He drove me from my house No one heard no one cried when they heard these baked sounds other hands would draw and fit into tamer moulds alpu betu gamu ox house camel recording barrels and bales Marduk pull me from the river listing sails and hulls Marduk let this cloud pass sounds that have rung through every changing trembling shape even when the reed breaks the ink fades and there is no moon Save these words
Caught up on the wave of the past a hawk skirls back ripping the seamed and sutured scar of our passage its wings are lined with scripts no one can read but everyone brawls over in this city of howling dogs and whinnying saints the blood that spurts under its claws is common the sort you could smell anywhere the sort you can smell everywhere suffer us all dear God of many names to come together and feed ourselves to that insatiable beak