HAMMURABI, THE EXALTED PRINCE WHO MADE GREAT THE NAME OF BABYLON, HAS WORDS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF DEATH FOR DONALD RUMSFELD
By Ariel Dorfman

I bite my tongue and try not to curse you
I bite my tongue and try not to wish upon you
   what you visited on me and mine

my voice that ordered laws
to be engraved for all to see and hear
orphans and widows
no no do not place that curse upon him they say to me
they say to Hammurabi the protecting King
those who accompany me in the green dark of death
that is not what we do in the green dark of death

my code
even slaves had rights
even women cast out by their husbands
adopted sons prostitutes patients
even the oxen in the fields
builders barbers sailors
they all had rights
even the oxen in the fields

my words that have survived four thousand years invasions depredations despoilment plunder
Persians Mongols Ottomans Arabs British
the first written words
      of history
for all to know and see

Hammurabi shield of the land
that now lies
broken shattered made dust
the many words of Mesopotamia

You could have stopped this
Rumsfeld Lord of the Looters
Lord of the Black Dawn

the statuettes of birds and goddesses
crushed by hammers sliced by knives
the scrolls painted by these hands
that surround me in the mother dark
gone all gone

only my words written in stone
still with me here on this other side
not for cursing they say to me
not what we do here they say

in the life after the dark of life
we teach they say to me
we wait they say to me
clothed in green gentleness
the mothering dark

and yet and yet
Rumsfeld Rumsfeld
who did not defend the words and the widow
if I do not curse you, who will?

the tyrant who has fled or is dying dead?
the tyrant who broke my code?
the people of my earth who cannot speak
for fear of the new occupant of the throne?
the far people at your homeland
muzzled by ignorance and dread
who pray to you their protector?

I am Hammurabi
shepherd of the oppressed and the slaves
I am the good shadow spread over the city

Who else is there left to speak?
If anyone steal the property of a temple he shall be put to death

If anyone steal the minor son of another he shall be put to death

If anyone break a hole into a house he shall be put to death

      No no no they say to me
     we do not believe in death
    not an eye for an eye they say

If a fire break out in a house and he who comes to put it out cast his eye
upon the property of the owner of the house, he shall be thrown into that
self-same fire

He shall be thrown into that self-same fire

      No no no they beg of me not a tooth for a tooth they say

He shall read my inscriptions and stand before me

     not a tooth for a tooth they say

may the years of your rule be in groaning
years of scarcity years of famine
darkness without light
the removal of your name and memory from the land

     not his children they say to me
do not say it they say to me

may Nin-tu the sublime mistress of the lands
   the fruitful mother
deny you a son
give you no successor among men
the pouring out of your life
like water into the mouth of the desert

nothing lower than you
day turned into night

If not Hammurabi then who will speak?
Hammurabi the provider of food and drink
Who clothed the gravestones of Malkat with green

If I do not

may the damnation of Shamash overtake you
deprived of water among the living
and spirit below in the earth
day turned into night
thrown into that self-same fire
that fell upon the children and the books

If I do not curse the transgressor

I bite my tongue and try not to say these words
I bite my tongue and try not to say the words
that have lived for four thousand years
and are now smashed in the rubble
of the land that was once Babylon

If I do not curse you

my code and your code broken in the ruins
your glory and my glory gone gone all gone

If I do not curse you, who will dare?

Ariel Dorfman has just published The Burning City, a novel he wrote with his youngest son, Joaquín; and Exorcising Terror; The Incredible Unending Trial of General Augusto Pinochet. His web-site is www.adorfman.duke.edu.