Ruth Barker

To Sing Of Gilgamesh

Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, (PETROSPHERE)
To Sing To Sing To Sing To Sing To Sing To Sing To Sing To Sing

To Sing of Gilgamesh


Performance, duration, 20 minutes approx.

Photography by Alan Dimmick. Garment by Lesley Hepburn, adapted and finished by Ruth Barker.









To sing of Gilgamesh

To sing at the beginning

Of a man, a king, a god


Who crawls out of the clay

And into the night of our tongues,

And we speak him into shape

And outline.


To sing of Gilgamesh

To sing at the beginning of a story

That we do not remember

That we do not speak

That we do not have in our hands

Or our fingers

Or our mouths


And I will sing of Gilgamesh

Though I do not remember.

Though he has not crawled

Out of the clay

And into my tongue;

But I will speak him into shape

As a she bear licks her cub

To clean off the caul on his new face.


To sing of Gilgamesh,



And I sing his name low, like a lover may say.

And I will make him my own,

I will step inside the loose sheets of his shape and beat him out, from the inside, with a  beat                                    beat                                 

beat                                beat                                    beat                                  beat                                       beat                                  

beat                                beat                                    beat                                  beat                                       beat                                     

beat                                beat                                    beat                                  beat                                       beat                                               

beat,                               like a heart,                         or a drum,                         or a poem.


To sing of Gilgamesh


For the first time.




Here come the things I do not know -

I do not know who he is

I do not know what he says

I do not know who you are

I do not know who she is

I do not know why he loves

I do not know where he goes

I do not know what he sees

I do not know how he decides

I do not know what road he takes

I do not know where he comes from

I do not know what his dreams mean

I do not know where he ends up

I do not know how he gets there



Here come the things that I do know -

I know his name

I know his heart

I know his shape

I know his strength

I know his grief

I know his path

I know his fear

I know his love

I know his killing

I know his mistake

I know his outline

I know his weakness


And that is all.



To sing of Gilgamesh 

May be to lift

The mass of clay and work it.


The storyteller

beats                                beats                                    beats                                  beats                                       beats                                 

beats                                beats                                    beats                                  beats                                       beats                                    

beats                                beats                                    beats                                  beats                                       beats with her hands,

Forcing the clay to the grain of the table she sits at.

With elbows out, she kneeds the thick dirt,

Folds it / tears it / joins it.

Clay cleaves beneath her fingernails,

And in the join between her fingers,

And creases, red brown, on the knuckles of her fists.


She pats and pushes clay.

She pinches and lifts it.

She thumbs it rudely into the likeness of: legs, navels, bellies.

Into the likeness of: chests, shoulders, arms.

Into the likeness of: two blunt and bearded heads.


On the flat of a kitchen table,

The storyteller makes two man-shapes stand,



One along the other.

His collarbone rests upon his wrist.

His shin is brushed against his calf.

Thigh touches thigh.

Face against face.

They are built from the same terracotta.


These are not men, but solid shapes in clay.

One will lose.

One will be lost.

And in the solid mud of their skulls

We will find, written:

All the words we’ve ever used for grief

And love;

And all the ways we’ve ever learned to look at death

Through distant lens, or the glass of our own front door.


To sing of Gilgamesh

May be to lift

The mass of clay

And work it.

Clay stains our hands.

The men we make with it

Are dumpy, crude, unyielding.

But the words in their heads

May still sing.