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Poems

  • Peter Balakian
Chapter

Abstract

After the Survivors Are Gone

  • I tried to imagine the Vilna ghetto,

  • to see a persimmon tree after the flash at Nagasaki.

  • Because my own tree had been hacked,

  • I tried to kiss the lips of Armenia.

  • At the table and the altar

  • we said some words written ages ago.

  • Have we settled for just the wine and bread,

  • for candles lit and snuffed?

  • Let us remember how the law has failed us.

  • Let us remember the child naked,

  • waiting to be shot on a bright day

  • with tulips blooming around the ditch.

  • We shall not forget the earth,

  • the artifact, the particular song,

  • the dirt of an idiom—

  • things that stick-in the ear.

Parable for Vanished Countries

  • The mountain was close.

  • Far. Then closer.

  • Rivulets of light ran across it.

  • Lakes were white circles,

  • then canyons,

  • then empty eyes.

  • The sky was a field of burning stones.

  • It was neither day nor night.

  • It was jasmine, and fires went out

  • over my head. The closer I got,

  • the farther it was.

  • Rivers pooled like green wax,

  • and the orchards and vineyards

  • on its flanks flared

  • like the wings of a scarlet tanager.

  • The trees glared like shepherds’ crooks

  • in the brass light; crows roosted on them,

  • and the mountain rose into the sky,

  • until it was a cloud

  • shimmering in black air.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Colgate UniversityHamiltonUSA

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