Thursday, August 05, 2010

Michael Akillian: The Painting

The canvas is a composite --
valley rising to meadow drying
into sleek desert;
a tree, broad and creviced, squats
beneath its shadow in the foreground
and counterbalances with a single distant mountain.
Except for the sky, everything is some shade
of earthworking and the texture of rich soil
that so enticed invaders. 

The people are of earthtones too. The man
by the tree standing in the shade
of his mustache is almost sepia, 
the young man in the meadow, the women
whose skin darkens to the tawny sand
of the desert where they walk.

It is the reds are missing.

I squeeze red onto the immediate starkness
of the white palette -- red
the shade all red things want to be.

In one place I mix tree sap, dark,
viscous, until I see bubbles trapped
and trying to rise like something
that wants to say itself.
I use a matchstick.

Clods of clay and dark earth I mash
into another for texture. I use
a horse hoof.

Onto a third I pour fine sand to break
the brightness. My tongue stirs in its saliva.

I finish this painting for you

Uncle Aram, patriarch, broad and strong,
lashed to the tree and burning with it
mingled in sizzles and smoke,

and for you cousin Carnig,
buried in your earth to the shoulders.
As the horses grew large you bit back
your eloquence and spoke with silence,

and for you Maral, small deer,
plunged early into womanhood
all along the wide, relentless arc
of beaten sand steps
that never did close the circle.

This poem is part of the volume entitled "The Eating of Names", published by Ashod Press, 1983. It has appeared in ARARAT and is reprinted here by kind permission of the author. 

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