Susan McDonald's poetic and musical retelling of
GILGAMESH was inspired by the ancient Sumerian text
by the same name.

Re-discovered by archaeologists in the mid-nineteenth century in the ruins of Ninevah in Mesopotamia (known as present-day Iraq), the clay tablets on which it was written have been dated at about 2500 B.C. It is widely considered the oldest known work of literature.

Susan was honored to perform her version of GILGAMESH
for the people of Iraq in 2013 and 2017.

Watch Susan's Pandemic Performance of GILGAMESH


In the land of Iraq, which was once known as Uruk
Was discovered a clay tablet- the world's oldest known book.The tablet was broken
(it was 4,000 years old)
But the story is timeless- it still can be told.
It's a tale of adventure and friendship - and pain
And how Of how even through loss there is much that can be gained
The story begins with a tyrant- Gilgamesh, cruelest of kings
Who worked his people to death building wasteful things.


Enkidu was not wasteful, nor cruel- nor king.
He lived with the animals and drank at their springs.
His friends were the buffalo, lions and birds.
He played with the antelope and ran in their herds.


One day a hunter examined his traps and was curious.
All the animals he'd caught had been freed- he was furious!
He went to the king (after paying a large debt) 
And described Enkidu who, no doubt, was a threat.
Gilgamesh sent a woman to distract Enkidu.
His men caught all the animals
And put them in zoos.
The woman was pretty- that much can be said.
Enkidu was no match- he was soon in over his head.


Infatuation wore thin but it was too late.
Enkidu was sad but accepted his fate.
The woman said, "Now we shall go to Uruk,
For you're like the king- just like him you look."
As they entered the city the people all stared.
"He looks like our king- except with more hair!"
Gilgamesh was enraged! How could this strange man
Dare to enter his city- perhaps claim his land?!
He swore and he bellowed and let fly his fists.
Enkidu fought back- all this for a kiss!
There was beating and biting and gnashing of teeth.
The walls shook, the dust flew, and no one could breathe!


The men took a pause, just a moment to breathe-
For really, there's only so long one can seethe.
Each looked at the other and started to grin.
They could have been brothers! They embraced and became friends.
Gilgamesh spoke then. "We must go on a quest
To kill the monster Humbaba, to destroy his nest."
"No!" cried Enkidu. "His breath is like acid.
He hears each tiny creature and exhales- to gas it!
He'll kill us I know- no chance that he won't."
Yet they set out together, each no longer alone.
They hiked through the mountains and meadows and moors
Until they heard the most hideous roar...


When the battle was done, Humbaba's head swung
From a tree. The animals saw and filed past one by one
To see the monster who'd caused so much fear.
But Enkidu had been killed. Gilgamesh wept guilty tears.


No longer a king, just a man filled with despair,
Gilgamesh wept for Enkidu and searched everywhere
For some secret, some magic to bring back the life
Of his friend and to end his despair and his strife.
Blind with grief, through his mind
Thoughts of Enkidu chewed
Like packs of starving animals
Scratching for food.
His aloneness was vast, his heart shattered glass.
He lived in the past
And wished each breath were his last.


At last Gilgamesh came to a valley so green 
With emeralds and diamonds it could only mean
That Enkidu was here, that to life he'd returned!
"Enkidu!" he cried. "Enkidu..." he yearned.


But no one replied and he knew no one would.
He had tried and he'd cried and he'd done all he could.
He returned to the city, to Uruk- his home.
His head bowed, his heart open- no longer alone.
He became one with his people. As they started to sing,
He lifted his head and became
A true king.

2002 Susan McDonald
All Rights Reserved

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