Balak in Hebrew (devastator)—King of Moab
son of Zippor (sparrow), meaning he who was always running away
into the desert as the Israelites were fast on his back.
Angry, humiliated, full of vinegar and sap,
looking for the diviner.
Balak (in Turkish, eccentric variant) meaning baby buffalo—
something forging Anatolian rivers,
Armenian fossil of the word, flushed downstream.
Who drowned wading in the reeds of the Ararat plain?
There the sky is cochineal.
There the chapel windows open to raw umber and twisted goats.
There the obsidian glistens and the hawks eat out your eyes.
If you thought of diaspora, you were thinking of emerald stones.
If you thought of the marshes of snails and magenta bugs,
you were wading in the reeds.
Ur: like rolling a good Merlot on the palate till it runnels up the nose.
Ah: breath of the unknown.
Tu: also, everything, self and side of mountain.
The soul sweats. The blue knifes the canyon.
In a cave, a man lived on herbs and water;
the sky’s grisaille was a visitation;
the leaves were out of toot sin Jants;
the angels were alpha and omega—
This road goes north—
no need to ask where you are,
sentimental pop songs are stuck in the CD shuffle
there’s a valley, a river, a smoking something—
if you ask what color is the sky
can anyone say—cloudless, clotted, open?
© Peter Balakian
Some other random works of this poet:
- A Country House
- After the Survivors Are Gone
- “My Mother is a Fish”
- Warhol / Madison Ave. / 9-11
- Parable for Vanished Countries
- Domestic Lament
- Leaving Aleppo
- Reading Dickinson / Summer ‘68
- Wild Cherry
- August Diary
- A Toast
- A Version of Paolo and Francesca
- In Church
- The Oriental Rug
- The Color of Pomegranates
- Head of Anahit/British Museum
- Warhol/Mao, ’72
- Fish Mouth
- Flat Sky of Summer
- Ode to the Duduk
- Ellis Island
- Baseball Days, ’61
- A Letter to Wallace Stevens
- Going to Zero
- Slum Drummers, Nairobi
- World Trade Center / Mail Runner / 73
- Here and Now
- Killary Harbor
- Ozone Journal