Today I read a poem from Armenian-American poet Peter Balakian (b. 1951). He won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2016 and has been vocal about never forgetting the 1909 Armenian Genocide (death and expulsion of 1.5 million people in what was then the Ottoman Empire). Here’s a poem called Ellis Island, the island of new beginnings:
The tide’s a Bach cantata.The beach is the swollen neck of Isaac.The tide’s a lamentation of white opals.The beach is free. The Coke machine rusted out.Here is everything you’ll never need:hemp-cords, curry-combs, jade and musk,a porcelain cup blown into the desert—stockings that walked to Syria in 1915.On the rocks some ewes and ramsgraze in the outer dark.The manes of the shoreline undo your hair.A sapphire ring is fingerless.The weed and algae are floating like a bed,and the bloodless gulls—whose breaths would stink of all of usif we could kiss them on the beaks—are gnawing on the dead.