Saturday, November 29, 2014

Peter Balakian: Mandelstam in Armenia, 1930

Between arid houses and crooked streets
a shadow could be your wife or a corpse
and a mule’s hooves sounded like Stalin’s
fat fingers drumming a table.

In the Caucasus eagles and hawks
hung in the blue’s basilica.
A swallow flew off a socle
into the wing of an echo–

history’s caw and chirp and bird shit
on the tombs in the high grass.
Oh hairy serrated stems
poppies flagged like tongues.

Petals of flat paper
lined your thumbed-out pockets.
Anther seeds burned your pen. 

From a cloud of broom a red bee stumbled,
to your fish-globe brain.
a casket of light kissed the eyebrows of a tree.
Lake Sevan’s rippling blue skirt
lapped you. Slime tongues got your eyes.
A half-dead perch slithered your ear.
When the evening air settled
on the creatures of the mountain
the sun was the Virgin’s head.

Here, where the bush grew with fresh blood
and ancient thorns, you picked the rose
without scissors. Became an omen.

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