for Nazim Hikmet
.... This Armenian citizen has not forgiven
the slaughter of his father in the Kurdish mountains.
But he loves you,
because you also won't forgive
those who blackened the name of the Turkish people.
- Nazim Hikmet, "The Evening Walk", 1950
It's 1997 April 24th.
I'm going to crack my back today
sing a dirge for you
dear spine, dear numbness, a story
carved by pomegranate seeds on obsidian.
You are a buttermilk churner, your name,
your eyes, the windows of an apple. Today is the day
I find the journal of an Armenian girl,
hold the two of you close together,
as the moon smiles behind us.
Have you ever seen the moon smile?
Have you ever seen anyone run like spilt milk?
You are not here, my only friend,
my only Turk with the mouth of an Armenian.
My questions are unanswered.
Questions asked a million and a half times,
by turtles who snapped beneath their shells
when you tried to lure tongues out of hiding.
I know you loved the sky
cloudy and clear, could not see it
for thirty-five years, as I do now, in Glendale,
a city full of Armenian grocers, children
who openly say "parev" with the breath
of ripe apricots, with Platonic love,
as ants crawl over that which is not theirs.
Shall we shake hands? Make amends?
It is spring. The rhododendrons
on Mrs. Keropian's front porch
are in red, blue and orange buckets
white hairs sprout from the Black Sea of her scalp.
Mrs. Keropian names items
after 120 year old sisters who chatter now
in dormant boats on the sea floor.
She names coffee cups
with black marshes of fortunes at the bottom
Sipan, Daron, and Van,
though there isn't a Sipan, Daron, or Van.
"They came to me in my dreams,
came to me with baskets of green
almonds with lashes. They stared, bloodshot
pupils dilated, and asked me to clean out their eyes!"
Should I listen to her? Should I tell them to be well?
I think I will hang my laundry out to dry.
These are the questions you should have asked. But today,
you are silent, and she is deaf. The secretive
moon takes your place, and converses
with her cups of teeth. Her window is barred,
her grave, nameless.
Remember the crescent moon, the star,
rivers and lakes you loved, Arax and Van.
I will answer your questions,
someone who hasn't worked the earth
indeed, can't love it.
A pencil point can't be a collage.
Now that I have answered our questions,
I'll clutch your pages in my Armenian hands,
nod a brief nod, swallow loathing and love,
and wish you well under your Anatolian sun,
so yellow, bleeding.
Copyright Sevana Bagdasarian. This poem has appeared in Birthmark: A bilingual anthology of Armenian-American poetry, 1999.