Monica Ferrell

Alexander Leaves Babylon

Alexander wept in Babylon, not because

his father had died or his old tutor

had looked at him finally with those eyes of stone


but because the drink of Babylon

was so good.  It tasted of dandelion milk

squeezed from a stalk still in its greenness. 


Here in his hand—the world: but first this glass of clarity

swelling like sunlight and as sharp.  Yes, winter

had aged him suddenly as a straw statue left outdoors


in the everness of the terrible Gedrosian:

that skin-colored bowl soft as the palm of God

where the urge to understand met the urge to disappear


and the two lay down to couple in the dust.

Sand scrubbed him clean as a glass there; he came out

empty as the strange room that widens between


two heart-beats: vacant as this circle of faces gathered at table—

flames staring quietly from a white fire

visionlessly patient in its dinner of elimination.


I need no one else I am a star

                                                            Then the gemmed

cats ranged under the table, and a rainbow-

colored snail kissed the marbling foot. 


Note: Alexander the Great died of a mysterious fever contracted at a feast in Babylon. He was there returning from his campaign in India; it had ended with a disastrous crossing of the Gedrosian desert which gruesomely decimated his army.


This poem first appeared in Tin House, 18.1