Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Poetry & Stories
13 October 2016updated 29 Jul 2021 4:17pm

Poem: Gloss

I started with alpha: Abdeluktos. / Above blame.

By Josephine Balmer

I worked my way up by my wits, from clerk

to city Patriarch. I corrected

each schism, effaced the iconoclasts,

until our gilded streets turned black. And red.

In broken churches we counted the deaths.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

I remembered a reed-slim boy of nine

Content from our partners
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting small businesses – Liz Truss must act
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs

or ten, the taste of his salt lips on mine –

weed-choked detritus dragged from Golden Horn.

Now terms were defined in my Lexicon.

I started with alpha: Abdeluktos.

Above blame. Any heretics tortured,

maimed. Absent of guilt. All Jews slaughtered.

[ b’del’uk’tos]. A sword hissing through bone.

Absolved. Assaults washed clean by each fresh gloss.

Josephine Balmer’s collections include The Word for Sorrow (Salt, new edition: 2013) and Chasing Catullus (Bloodaxe, new edition: 2016). Her translations include Catullus: Poems of Love and Hate (2004), Classical Women Poets (1996) and Sappho: Poems and Fragments (1992), all published by Bloodaxe.

This article appears in the 05 Oct 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's triumph