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from Rapconteur by Baba Brinkman



Run your fingers over the stones of this ancient city
These temples of worship and places of business
And picture them falling into desolation
Just drifting sand and standing walls and vacant buildings
You can’t take it with you where you’re going
But someone who comes here in five thousand years
Exploring might unearth a recording
That tells the world your story
Some confabulation of words stored in a subterranean
Purgatory could well emerge to tell those
Who still dwell on earth that you were born
And that your works were worth reporting
Well this is the first story; not the oldest
Told by troubadours, but the oldest in written form
‘Cause who can say whether troubadours don’t improve
Their sources, of course the origins of the story are oral
But it was preserved for thousands of years
In Akkadian verse tablets and Sumerian cuneiform
Preserved like Cuban cigars in a humidor
So we can be sure that it’s true to its source
Not a folk story transformed in ten thousand villages
But a relic of the ancient world, preserved with diligence
The oldest narrative that still exists
The epic of Gilgamesh

When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body
Like Arnie when his films were still impressive
Like Conan the Barbarian, physical brilliance
Like sculpted steel as flesh
The gods endowed him with strength and courage and fine
Features; in terms of appearance he was the first in line
Brad Pitt would have looked liked a turd beside him
He was one third mortal, and two thirds divine
And as an aside, I guess the Sumerians when this poem was written
Were not aware of chromosome division
Or Mendellian genetics; no organism
That reproduces sexually is two-thirds of anything
Maybe they calculated paternity as a percentage
Of the number of men that the mother had been with before she got pregnant
Which is the case with certain indigenous South American Indians
Increasing the incentive for the men to collaborate on parental investment
But when the gods are involved these calculations are irrelevant
Because they’re practically omnipotent
And Gilgamesh was a mortal man with two-thirds god genes
In the Sumerian catalogue of kings
He’s listed as the fifth ruler of Uruk after the flood came
And washed away all things
So our story begins with Gilgamesh in charge of the peace
And the people of Uruk, not pleased

And why were they less than pleased?
Because Gilgamesh was an extreme sex fiend
To put it simply, he deflowered every virgin
And slept with the wife of every peasant and the daughter
Of every nobleman whenever he felt the urge and
For the people of Uruk, this was a heavy burden
In fact, the original version only says
That the men found it a heavy burden
Which begs the question: was the consent of these women earned
Or did he just take it?
My inclination is to stay with the basics
Nowhere is he referred to as Gilgamesh the rapist
Which means he had game and the men were jealous haters
But don’t these questions always plague men of status
Was he Bill Clinton-esque or Tiger Woods with a waitress?
Or was he Roman Polanski or Mike Tyson dangerous?
I can’t possibly say from these ancient pages
But I’d prefer to work with a sympathetic protagonist
So in my version, he gets the benefit of the doubt
Gilgamesh impressed the women with his physical prowess
But his sexual endowments were hateful to his people
So they huddled in their houses and prayed for relief
To the gods, like “Please, make him an equal!”
And the gods heard their pleas, and created Enkidu

Enkidu was a wild man
Tarzan of the highlands
His body was covered in hair in fine mats
He knew nothing of civilization and finance
A feral child, he ran with the Ibex
And ate nothing but plants, plus he was massive
He had this habit of releasing animals from traps
And snares whenever they got captured
And eventually one of the trappers ran back to
The city to ask Gilgamesh for some answers
He said: “There is this massive hairy man
Who keeps smashing the traps we set in mountain pastures
He’s either half-animal, or he’s an animal rights activist
But either way I’m at my wits’ end, any suggestions?
And Gilgamesh said “Here’s what you do
You go to Ishtar’s temple and you get a prostitute”
Now, Ishtar was the Goddess of love, and destruction too
And her priestesses offered free sex to the multitude
Maybe religion is something even Christopher Hitchens
Could’ve gotten into if that’s what it offered you
So Gilgamesh said, “Yeah, you get this temple ho
This child of pleasure, and you get her to go with you
Down to the watering hole, and you get her to take off her clothes
And this wild man, well, he won’t be wild no mo…”

Whoah, forgive the ebonic
Inflections, but I just always wanted
To use the word “ho” in an epic
Anyway, it happened exactly as Gilgamesh predicted
Enkidu came down to the lake to take a drink
And he saw this beautiful, soft, naked being
This succulent, supple lady, and she
Embraced him and… shwing!
For six days and seven nights they lay by the lakeside
Insatiably shagging, and it was his first time!
But after when he tried to go back to his animal friends
They just looked at him and fled
Innocence lost
Enkidu’s intimate frolics with the temple harlot
Had cost him his connection with nature – never again
Would his animal friends accept him as one of them
And from that day forward he was civilized
The prostitute fed him bread and wine
And said “Enkidu, you are wise, why sleep in the wild
When there’s shelter nearby?” And she took his hand
And led him like a child to the shepherds’ tent
And bade him step inside and she clothed and bathed him
And he stayed with the shepherds for a stretch of time
And protected them from lions

Enkidu stayed with the shepherds for a while but soon
Word arrived from the city that there was a wedding
And Gilgamesh was claiming his birthright
The privilege of “First Night”
That is, the right to be the first to fertilize
The bride on her wedding night
Just like the English did to the Scottish before 1305
When William Wallace kicked their asses, which served them right
Well, the Sumerian groom was also quite perturbed by
This incursion into his personal life
And when Enkidu heard about this, he turned white
With anger and traveled to Uruk, determined to fight
The bridal bed was made; a virgin lay within it
A trembling, nervous babe
As Gilgamesh approached the house, determined to get laid
But Enkidu stepped in front of him and blocked his way
Clash of the Titans
Their grasps were like vice grips as they grappled and tightened
Their massive biceps, striving like angry bisons
Each man trying to gain the upper hand on his rival
It was a wrestling match that cracked the keystones
In the walls of Uruk and shook the ziggurats
And the foundations of peoples’ homes
But in the end, Enkidu was thrown

He paid his respects to Gilgamesh for besting him
And Gilgamesh was impressed that someone had even tested him
Because every man he’d ever met until then was estrogen
And from then on he treated Enkidu like his next of kin
Now, Gilgamesh was obsessed with legacy building
He wanted his name to be etched on bricks
And listed where the names of famous men are written
So they embarked on a campaign of adventurism
They traveled to the Lebanese hills
To the cedar forest where they cut down trees
And defeated the “evil” demon guardian
The protector of those sweet resources
Everyone tried to warn them off this quest
They said: “Don’t go! The demon’s jaws are death
When he says humbaba, humbaba, hum-humbaba
It’s like he has napalm for breath
But no one could convince them to stop
Because Gilgamesh believed that he was on a mission from God
And when they reached the demon, his defenses were weak
They overpowered him easily and he fell to his knees
Pleading like a refugee, like a fugitive
In a spider hole, begging for his life
But they were icy cold, they executed him
With three precise blows and turn their eyes towards home

Other adventures awaited, Ishtar tried to
Seduce Gilgamesh by offering herself to him naked
But he rejected her and she flew into a jealous rage
Full of indignation, determined to take veangence
She released the Bull of Heaven, a personified drought
Which they defeated with a sword strike, somehow
But Gilgamesh was really swelling with pride now
So the gods said; “Time to take this guy down”
They took the side route; they knew that Enkidu was
His Achilles heel, because he was the key to his
Feelings, so the gods decreed that Enkidu would
Soon cease to exist, and he fell into a deep sickness
And had a feverish dream vision of life after death
In which he was a feathered wretch, sitting in pitch
Darkness, staring ahead at an endless stretch
Of time, and he cursed everyone he’d ever met
Since he left the wilderness, the prostitute, the trapper,
Everyone except for Gilgamesh
Who stood by his side singing a death lament
Until Enkidu’s final breath was spent
For the rest of this story
Gilgamesh is an emotional wreck in a state of perpetual mourning
On a desperate quest to make his flesh immortal
And it’s interesting, but it isn’t worth reporting

It’s fragmented and repetitive and it never really finishes
Although it does contain a fascinating parallel with Genesis
Suffice to say, immortality eluded him
And he returned to Uruk in a state of disillusionment
And lived out his life just like the rest of us do
By having children and making civic improvements
So he didn’t live forever, but he did leave descendents
Which means his genes probably make up one tenth of one tenth
Of one percent of one hundred thousand Middle Eastern residents
But this form of immortality is just divisive
And he left us his story, the Epic of Gilgamesh
Which he chiseled into the walls of his city while building it
And it tells us that this human obsession with living forever in
The face of certain death is something we’ve always wrestled with
Which tells us something about what it is to be human
If immortality exists, then I guess you’re listening to it


from Rapconteur, released July 15, 2010


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Baba Brinkman New York, New York

Science rapper and inventor of several novel hip-hop variants. Canadian transplant to New York. Pathological optimist.

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