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tearing the rag off the bush again
      (Remembering disjecta membra)
by J.J. Phillips


[x x x (x)]
[x x x (x)] x la

(rest destroyed)




Bright Pleiades
Stars of early morning
Stationed in the heavens.

Let the wind blow
Let the groves quake
Let the clouds gather
Let the moisture fall.

Palm tree!  Palm tree!
Bright sheen!  Bright sheen!
Fig tree laden with attractiveness!

Gate of silver
Gate of gold.

I am washed
I am anointed
My face bedewed.

My body purified like lapis lazuli
My features bright like alabaster
Like shining silver and reddish gold.

Look, come close
Do not hold back
Wild ass…onager!

I am endowed with love
I sit in a net of lovemaking
May I not miss my quarry.

Let them put favor of heart
Into your heart.

i-sal-luma ŠÀ.ZI.GA

Do for me what Ishtar did for Dumuzi
What Nanya did for her lover.

Let us lie down by night
Let us copulate and copulate
At the command of wise Ishtar.



Silver bead
Gold bead
Dewclaw of a stag
Put them into a leather bag.

Pluck the wool from a sheep’s forehead
Tie a wild buck to your bed.


Get an erection!
Get an erection!
Get an erection like a wild bull!

ti-ba [ti-ba]

Make love to me like a wild bull fifty times
Make love to me like a pig fourteen times
Like a mountain goat six[ty] times.


By means of the plants of the mountain
And the plants of the deep
Let your limbs rise.

Stag!  Stag!
Let your heart rise
Let your strength rise.

ti-ba [ti-ba]

May your penis become long as a maš-gašu weapon
May your penis be taut as a harp-string
May your penis be a stick of martu-wood.

May the arrow find its mark
May the bow not become slack
May the quiver not become empty.


Make love to me with the lovemaking of a partridge
Make love to me with the lovemaking of a wolf.

Let us lie down by night
Let us copulate and copulate
At the command of wise Ishtar.


Note: The ŠÀ.ZI.GA: Ancient Mesopotamian Potency Incantations, [compiled and translated] by Robert D. Biggs (J.J. Augustin Publisher, Locust Valley, NY, 1967) is, as its subtitle states, a collection of incantations to restore male potency.  Then, as now, the problem of erectile dysfunction was of seminal importance.

Scholars and purists will no doubt object to my shameless appropriation of these ancient texts.  However, their very antiquity, obscurity and mystery, the fragmentary nature of the incantations and rituals, and their linguistic indeterminacy (including the lacunae, the Sumerian-Akkadian bilinguality, abracadabra, and Biggs’s textual reconstructions), make the ŠÀ.ZI.GA ideal for engaging in this kind of postmodern poetic play. Furthermore, the ŠÀ.ZI.GA is a compilation of spells and related material, as opposed to a narrative or other corpus in which the whole depends on its parts and the parts on the whole.  This again lends itself to play in which I can dismember and remember, decontextualize and recontextualize lines of text to suit my particular sensibilities of the moment.  Indeed, anybody can go to the ŠÀ.ZI.GA, engage in this kind of jouissance and make his or own poem from what is there; and in the process one would hope be drawn to investigate and thus remember ancient Mesopotamian civilization.
The incantations contain stunning imagery, and to the modern eye many utterances are highly allusive.  Others are unequivocally literal and direct – exhorting the penis to rise, commands to tie (sexually excited) animals to the bed in order to become stimulated. (I have been assured by the Sumeriologist Anne Kilmer that this latter activity was indeed practiced).  The juxtaposition of these disparate modes of expression coupled with the broken texts and the fact that in today’s world some of the utterances evoke puerile chortling and even sometimes cause one to recoil, produces a kind of cognitus interruptus, which continually complicates, confounds, displaces, derails, and obliterates one’s expectations at every level of comprehension.  Nonetheless, these incantations are frequently breathtaking in their beauty and expression of carnal desire.  They speak across millennia, culture, language, and gender with an immediacy that brings a visceral shudder of recognition and connection.

ŠÀ.ZI.GA = “rising of the heart” = sexual potency
INIM.INIM MA ŠÀ.ZI.GA = “incantation for potency”
UG.GA = “get excited”
ti-ba = “get an erection”
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