In today’s Guardian, the word quorum
is spelled the same as oqürum,
the only surviving word of Khazar,
according to the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia.
Oqürum, meaning ‘I have read’.

The original pronunciation is lost for ever,
but I weigh three syllables in my palm
against ‘paprika’ and ‘samovar’,
‘cedarwood’ and, for some reason,
‘mistletoe’. I have read…

an entire literature,
and enacted all that it describes.
On a winter morning, in an ochre room
that we can never enter, the resonance
of those imaginary consonants

the elders whisper over ancient documents
flickers the blood bright shadow
from a glass of tea.

Appeared in the Guardian 25.09.2004