The Mud God

When the low plains of Babylon
drowned in the year of the Great Flood,
the waters ebbed on the seventh dawn,
but then came the god of the mud.
He swelled up from the sprawling swamp
to gift mankind with fertile soil—
he was a scheming psychopomp
and gave them crops that would not spoil.
It was he who took the drowned dead
in exchange for the fertile years,
for he was the alluvial bed
that fed from sacrifice and tears.
From the corpses sprang up new crops:
grains and sweet fruits, row upon row,
and wheat and barley and the beer hops
with which they washed away sorrow.
Drunk and full, they gave sincere thanks
to the god that drowned their dear kin,
gathering and singing on the banks
where the mounds of mud bloomed again.
So Sumer flooded once a year
and the god rose to bless the plains;
a god of death, life, silt, and fear—
praised and abhorred, like heavy rains.

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