Genealogy, Ending in a Suicide by Tara Ballard

Poland begat low hills
and Poland begat a river
and Poland begat Adam
who came to marry a dark-feathered owl
whose tongue carried an identity card of Russia
and together Adam and the owl
they boarded a ship
and they held tight the handrails of iron
as they flew over the deep
as they gazed westward
where they came to make a garden of Pennsylvania
and with the setting and rising and the changing of years
they made a garden too of New York
and there the owl begat three apple trees
who blossomed their leaves
and learned to embroider new songs for love
and one apple tree grew roots to the coast
and on the coast the roots tangled near the base of rosemary and fog
and there the apple tree begat a deer
and the deer whose fur smelled forever of salt
of an unknown tongue and a garden
the deer begat Jonathan
who was young
Jonathan who was
and Jonathan who wept
as he begat a field the color of poppies before midnight
that the sky might smell again of apples
that the sky might smell of low hills and a river
and the iron handrails of a ship
the salt that caught on the pockets of winter
and a man and an owl
and for Jonathan
a pyre that burns now above the waters



for my cousin—06/20/18
Tara Ballard’s collection, House of the Night Watch (New Rivers Press), is the winner of the 2016 Many Voices Project, and her poems have been published or recently accepted by North American Review, Poetry Northwest, The Southampton Review, Spillway, and other literary magazines. Her poems recently won a 2019 Nazim Hikmet Poetry Prize.