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Gilgamesh
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


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Lyrics by Baba Brinkman

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