Robert Kelly


all I be
is Babel.

Mask is man. Babel is music.

Flow up to heave
one more hum
against the zodiac, hum,
heaven is easy,
Babel is east
of everything, everything
is the shadow of it.


Language is the Gate of God we go in
easy this entrance meant just for us


Three men floating down the river on a marble slab
and one of them turned to the captain and said
there were three men floating down the
river on a marble slab and one of them
turned to the captain and said Captain
he said This can't be my dog my dog is hairy my dog
is in heat where did this dog come from and where is my dog?
Three men floating down the river and a questionable dog
and the captain said All these questions and perceptions
make me weary, aren't you tired of seeing, tired of saying?
The three men abashed fell silent and patted the strange dog.

Language is the only dog we've got.


(Behavior is our only clue
behavior is all I mean by you,

all men floating in one you.)


The combined ages of the lovers
is approximately a hundred miles.

All along the Hudson bivalves by the billion
flushed through the clayey mud,

riverfound, Venus mercenaria,
heaps of clamshells left

when my lover went away
(he was always gone,
he was not here,
he was gone from the beginning,
"always already" missing,

Babel is the beginning,
parentheses open
cave mouth or Bomarzo

my lover's gone he never chose
Babel is too easy
going is the only way to stay.
We built a tower on the sun,
all gods are one
(all gods are none).

Every word means the same -
every child knows that,

all a word means is: I am speaking.


How can I stay with you
with all this talk

when talk is all I am,
always going
out of the warm mouth
and into thin air?

Talk is there,
talk is going
but never all the way
away, you still can hear me
busy in your blood,
never further than the heart
from your fingertip.


Babel of course is Bible.

Haven't I tolled
this bell time
on times again

the Bible (the Lie Bell)
tells everything

toward your back
or upside down?
So that you look

up the word
and remember?
Turn inside out.

Blake called this the diabolic sense of scripture, I call it
reading, kindergarten of the gods,
look up and hold the
book like a picture above your head

the way you'd look at a star chart,
everything reversed,

the way you'd look at stars.


A book is a mirror, a book
is a mirror, all a book
can be is mirror,
a book's a shiny
backwards thing,
turn mirror round, turn it down,

Bible is biblion is the Book,
the lion's bib
we are the people
eaten by a book.

Read it and turn it
rightside up at last.


Thus: before our celebrated human Saussure-exercise on the Plain of
Shinar there was nothing but the bewildered silence of the natural world.

If we built, we built like beavers, silent and without discussion, glossy,
beautiful, hopeless, wet.

Babel gave us language. The story tells not of the confusion of tongues
but of the suspension of silence. Gift of tongues. In Babel for the
first time we learned to speak.

By speaking we conquered heaven.

This is heaven. Pure view. There is nothing but where we are.

Of course that sudden - but everlasting - mediation by language of primal
presence is seen by some as a tragedy.

Yet it is not the tragedy of incomprehension. It is the tragedy of too
many meanings to fit a single Absence.


any book is bible, the bunch of signs
your heart on my sleeve.


Language is the body's answer to the mind.

And Babel wants you. (Waits you.) It is your taste in my mouth (you
decided to give me). A taste left after kissing, who would kiss me, I
live alone, not a kiss, no more kisses, what is all this stuff about
kisses, this is Babel, no kisses on the Plain of Shinar.

Each person kisses his own lips - isn't that what speech is?

It's all language, baby bird, wombat on the porch, porcupines nibbling on
the bark of the tree they're halfway up, a short salad, please, dear
leaves, dear bark, halfway to heaven. We feed on what we travel, we feed
on what lifts us. Kiss me. Stop talking about my mouth, this is no

Babel taught (here's the simple version, by R.Simpleton, barely through
with puberty - the last straw that breaks the back of childhood. The
final humiliation is to want another person, to crave for what I loathe) -
Babel taught (Rabbi Simpleton Roberto was trying to say),
Babel taught us how to talk.

You said that. Over and over in fact. Language is always over and never
over, always over and over and never done, language "wants to go on," I
have to keep telling you

the clear ever limpid meaningful and sweet palaver in the mother tongue
terrible as troubadors. Language taught us how to crave.


Language was a hill we climbed


can you hear the smell of things,
the lodger new moved in upstairs,
I taste his footsteps
sluggish on the drugget in the hall,
under the skylight what man lives?

I can't handle all this desire,

I beat a bird
until the sky fell down.


Mary Magdalen is my favorite wife
the ocean is my Oldsmobile
I chew for breakfast on a pyramid
my blood is full of Greek

When the ship gives up its living
and the sea rolls up like an old billet-doux
dead angels fall down from the moon
every time the church bell goes


Pieter Stuyvesant bowling on the green
I hear the clunk of wooden bowls
the stutter of his wooden leg

railroad station at Deventer it began to snow
skaters on little ponds, just a breath of ice,
bright woolen scarfs they go

kiss kiss in Woodstock meadows, Shadow.


All this to know
a little bit about the Bible
give that little boy a holy picture

The Good Shepherd
with a lamb around his neck
a nimbus glorioling round his hair

and stick it in your prayerbook, little man.
You knew all the answers, kid,
but we knew all the questions.


We run this show ?
all you have to do is ask
and all I have to do is lie.


"Feelings are just something you feel,
an hour later you feel something else
no more definitive than what you felt before."

Don't squeeze your heart so hard, he said,
you'll wake the neighbors,

you'll give yourself away,
feelings are the handles on you they can grab,


Babel is a brick
your fingers

how to let go


And so we kept building this tower
until it leaned how to build itself.

Till it learned to think and feel for us.
And so it grows, taller every hour,

further and further from what you feel
and the glowing tip of it we call the Sun -

which is in fact an inch further away from earth
every day of our lives and the dumb
astronomers don't know it, don't notice

it because they can't see, can't count -
you can only tell in language,

in inches and fingertips and earshot,
bowshot, a stone's throw past the moon,

a naked footprint left on the marble sky at dawn.