They ate mouldy shoes boiled for three days.
Hands which had grown vegetables, surrounded
by cows and dogs, lifted limp laces
like pasta. Sick men with wolf faces,
hoarse voices, and grotesque lips.
The roots of their hunger remembered
kitchens and tonirs baking lavash,
green vine leaves climbing webbings,
assiduous aunts boiling near ovens,
fierce chain-smoking uncles, tussling children,
pimply adolescents among fat flowers,
glitter of finned fish,
spicy oils and raw meats slashed
for grilling. In the orchards,
black grapes dark with dreams
and pomegranates with ruby fire.
Under the cool shadow of Ararat,
appetites flourished in town-squares and fields,
throats throbbing with promise of plenty.
Miles away, the sea yawned,
sated with shimmering food.
They were marching somewhere
in the desert’s furnace, seeking caves
where they could scoop out refuge
before blood became a processional
underground. A lucky few
found corpses with shoes,
knelt in the black furrows of death,
and plucked up paltry leather
to make meals from plunder.
Insanely single-minded about hunger,
dull jawed, they ate hide
as if it were prime beef,
forced it down their raw throats,
mouths creating juice, minds
pushing back death with bony fingers.
Boiled shoes would give them life
so their naked feet might move
through calendars of bayonets,
burning wind ringing in ears,
eyes cooked by a saturnine sun.
Shoes had passed from feet to feet,
age to age, rubbed and scuffed by stones,
joints glued like perfect sockets,
relics of animals on dry steppes.
Heels broke apart like bones,
tongues of hide tore in flaps.
When they were full,
small nails were left for ravenous dogs.
Leather fed bad dreams, delirium,
ghosts. Centuries of Turkish heels
on necks the colour of sand.
Time stumbled over shoes,
fell through their holes
into the seams of rocks
where names disappeared
in the dank smell of clay
as scimitars sliced the horizon.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008