Balak in Hebrew (devastator)—King of Moab
son of Zippor (sparrow), meaning he who was always running away
into the desert as the Israelites were fast on his back.
Angry, humiliated, full of vinegar and sap,
looking for the diviner.
Balak (in Turkish, eccentric variant) meaning baby buffalo—
something forging Anatolian rivers,
Armenian fossil of the word, flushed downstream.
Who drowned wading in the reeds of the Ararat plain?
There the sky is cochineal.
There the chapel windows open to raw umber and twisted goats.
There the obsidian glistens and the hawks eat out your eyes.
If you thought of diaspora, you were thinking of emerald stones.
If you thought of the marshes of snails and magenta bugs,
you were wading in the reeds.
Ur: like rolling a good Merlot on the palate till it runnels up the nose.
Ah: breath of the unknown.
Tu: also, everything, self and side of mountain.
The soul sweats. The blue knifes the canyon.
In a cave, a man lived on herbs and water;
the sky’s grisaille was a visitation;
the leaves were out of toot sin Jants;
the angels were alpha and omega—
This road goes north—
no need to ask where you are,
sentimental pop songs are stuck in the CD shuffle
there’s a valley, a river, a smoking something—
if you ask what color is the sky
can anyone say—cloudless, clotted, open?
© Peter Balakian