Thursday, October 01, 2009

Peter Balakian: Post-Traumatic Shock, Newark, New Jersey, 1942

Shirts hang in the glass showcase
behind the gold French Cleaners,

when I open the door,
naphthalene rises
into the no-legs.

Delphiniums are blue like
the decanters of cologne from Paris.
That’s my brother’s house.

God’s face on a wooden belfry.
God’s lips. God’s nose.
God’s innocent little prick.

At the butcher’s those are cow’s eyes
with the visionary gleam of things
in the dead sand.

I’m the star of a Jew
rising from the beery foam
of Chaplin’s moustache.

It was a dirt road
like the head of an elk
or these hanging ribs.

Figs at Delaney’s all
the way from Smyrna
like shit in cellophane.

On the road. We were going there,
and then Hawaii turned into white light
on the screen of the Philco.

Kamikaze metal.
A runway of gin and broken glass.
Naphthalene of the Red Cross nurses.

Yes, yes, the child’s mine.
No Armenians left?

Jimmy Stewart you bastard
I’m here with some shopping bags.

Peter Balakian, “Post-Traumatic Shock, Newark, New Jersey, 1942” from June-Tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000. Copyright © 2001 by Peter Balakian. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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