Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Peter Balakian: In the Caucasus

Into a basalt cavern
I wandered, where the moon 
slid like a water snake
in white skin 
through the gullies
to the blonde and furry wheat.

A grubby man,
I dug toward the damp smell 
of a water channel–
a nation's basement,
a root cellar,

and found a shard 
of khachkar
its intricate lacework 
a whole system of streams 
wound into stone–

grapes and pomegranates 
pomegranates and grapes
pulpy in my hands.

Palmettos leaves fanned
my palms; a rising moon 
in the moss-grown stone 
mirrored the light
where the winged griffins --
those talismen of blood
flew into the arms of the cross.

Down a gulley,
like a volute,
I found a way 
to the dry clay 
of a border between two worlds --

Pegasus flew out
of the tufa walls
into the white shroud of Ararat

and the ringing bells 
slid into the scree.

Raft, Volume 4, 1990.

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