Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Uncle Hagop was grilling kebab
in the fireplace, sitting on a crate,
basting each morsel of lamb
with yogurt and oil.

"This is for your mother," he was saying,
as he drew the brush along a skewer,
"and this is in memory of your grandfather
who swims with the fishes."

There was hardly any furniture,
all our rugs had been left behind,
there were so many echoes.

Outside, it was Pennsylvania
heavy with snow, the sidewalks
had disappeared, streets had become
a mirage of dunes.

"Uncle Hagop," I said, "the place
is filling up with smoke." Our eyes
had begun tearing, we were opening windows,
flapping towels by the front door.

"Look at these beauties," he said, turning
the onions on their sides, singing
O rise up my Armenian heart
above the jeweled Caucasus!

There was nothing to do but shrug helplessly
as the neighbors passed by the door
looking in, amazed to see something
like a campfire in the middle of the city
and Uncle Hagop lifting up his glass

to the sheep herders of Yerevan
and the hardy grasses and grape vines
rooted deep in the rocky soil.

My grandmother was looking heavenward,
my sister was asking if we could return
to normal, we were all wiping our eyes,
waiting for sirens or the eviction notice

and Uncle Hagop was singing another chorus
about the heartland, forking the lamb
to its soft pink center, and bringing
platefuls of it like an offering
to the makeshift table

where we sat down, raising
a toast to the old life and new,
eating and saying as we ate
how everything had been done
to a turn, how really there was
no other way of doing it.


COPYRIGHT 2003 Modern Poetry Association

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