Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ԶԱՐԵՀ ԽՐԱԽՈԻՆԻ։ Նիւ Ւորք, Նիւ Ւորք

New York New York . . .

In Memory of the Victims of September 11 

While having dinner, and
Watching television through the corner of my eye,
Suddenly the food in my mouth turns into stone
The fork, the knife, the spoon fall down
I cover my startled eyes tightly with my hands;
When I open them up, it is not a nightmare, not a dream,
Not a horrific creation of an eccentric film director—
It is the silent, blurry, shaky videotape
Showing a massive airplane flying low which
Plunges into the tower like a blazing axe
And blows up with a fiery explosion
That I do not hear, but feel through a shiver in my spine.

While bursting smoke and flame engulf the building
         like a thick black cloud,
Suddenly out of a window on the top floors
A spot, a point, a figure undefined
Jumps off—and abruptly
The picture freezes, as does my breath.
The woman reporter stutters, shows a close-up picture and screams:
"It is a man! It is a man who is jumping off, into hell . . ."
With my mouth open I want to breathe—I cannot
And the drop of blood, water, tear
Wants to fall down—it freezes.
The date is September the Eleventh, two thousand and one.

Oh, the majestic nobility of that man
Who stands above the abyss of immeasurable lowness
Still representing a monument of steel willpower.
Like a clay statue with lamentable powerlessness
He looks up at the arrogant sky of brilliant light
He looks down at the unusual illusive play of destiny
Committing an unprecedented massacre:
A closed trap of evil inspiration that forces thousands into
          a tumultuous dead end;
It is horrid murder and terrifying destruction.
The man stands on the huge windowsill,
Looks down and up again at the peaceful brilliant blue dome
Which does not have even a drop of a silent tear,
   let alone a heavy downpour
To subside the fiery appetite of the last judgement below;
And with a movement of disgusted disdain, that only
One who is decayed, rotted thoroughly, and weary of everything
 or despondent makes,
He jumps off screaming silently all the curses he has known
Swinging his arms and legs
As thousands of slaps and countless kicks,
Each one intended as a curse
At everything that has and has not happened in the world— 
He hits the ground
Like phlegm that has been spat out
At the face of the only real truth: the absurd. . . .

What did he feel? What did he think? What did he scream?
Like a spider that has suddenly lost its string
Waving his limbs just before hitting the ground—
He is the one
            when we hear that without any reason
                        the boss fires someone
            when we see that a cheerfully and enthusiastically prepared
                        plan is thrown into the wastebasket
                        by completely whimsical intent
            when we learn that due to unforeseen mechanical failure
                        someone's child—or father or mother—has died
   in an accident
            when we realize finally that there is a blind force—
                        spontaneous, uncontrollable, faceless, and wild
                        that destroys your artwork and models you have built
                        with a strike of an axe
                        that ruins your castle of dreams or your real home
                        ties a rope around your neck, chains your hands
   and feet, and traps you in a deadlock
                        it cuts your lifeline—the way of life that
       you so dearly have spun—
                        while looking you straight in the eyes.

And while the spider knows that it will escape
     as soon as it hits the ground
            if a rude sole does not suddenly step on it,
The falling man knows well that the hard and heartless earth
        is waiting for him.
            Although that day was an exception in every way
            Something else happened—
As a self-sacrificing burnt offering, he fell 
Into the arms of the fire of the newly created hell.

But all this is before
            his jumping off the shattered window.
And then what? What when he jumps off into the emptiness?

I think he has no insult, no curse,
No denunciation for the world that brought him there
But disregard and endless neglect
And oblivion to everything
            except perhaps the vision of his daughter—if he has one
Then, nothing.

There is solemn ecstasy in his final metamorphosis
Into a two-legged flying creature
            at least five or six seconds
Free, independent, light, absolutely buoyant
Like a bird, or a butterfly, or a fly
With a new perspective
Revealing to him the city—gigantic, angelic, graceful,
          and . . . hellish—
And an unknown man in it
Mortal, condemned to die.

Ten months later,
Evening, on the twentieth of July, I stand
Behind the huge window
On the sixty-fifth floor of the building
At Rockefeller Center
While in the back at the Rainbow Room
My son's wedding reception is taking place—
With my two hands on the cold window
I look at the sea of lights of this colossal city with its proud
     towering buildings
Now deprived of
The unfortunate twin towers
And the brave man
who jumped off the sixty-fifth floor or higher
And the thousands of unfamiliar ordinary people
Who perished in smoke and flames
            turned to dust under the pulverized buildings
Without ever having a chance to be immortalized by a lens
To become heroes in my eyes.

That night
I was happy, there was a wedding party: feasting, music,
            song and dance
In the hall the band was repeatedly playing
             "New York, New York" with a joyful sound;
In my mind I had a wake going on.
And what a pity, with my wrinkled forehead against the window
While I was looking with intense admiration at the gleaming,
 graceful, and demonized city,
Hey! Hemingway—I yelled in my mind—
            and you too compatriot Arshile Gorky,
         what were you thinking?
One of you chose the gun, and the other chose the rope.
You could have had all these high-rise towers or castles to enjoy . . .
And you could have departed with this wondrous view
     also stamped on your souls.

20 September 2002


Now I understand you well
Hunter Mr. Hemingway
And exiled languished Armenian
Arshile Gorky
            who changed his name from Vosdanig Adoian—
            no one knows you by that name
            in the vast melting pot of the New World
Now I must apologize to you.
I am sorry that I blamed you—
            as if  I were a naive boy
            with a silver spoon in his mouth. . . .

I understand you now.
When big and small ostentatious honors—adorned with
Ridicule, deceit, and contempt—that you encounter
Multiply day by day:
Instead of a fruit-bearing and shade-providing tree, a thick log
Instead of flowers, a thorn
Instead of silky hair, a brush
Instead of spaghetti, a lump of tangled hair
Nettle salad, vinegar wine, polluted water
Bitter supper, sour meal
Thorny bed
            repeated forever—
Any changes?   Even worse—garbage instead of a rose
Instead of a tree, a greased pole . . .
Door?  Window? —Call for help? Salvation?
Although you are free to open it up and yell out
The kick is ready
            or the punch
            that reaches out even from the ground, the window,
        or the door
            and knocks you down every time
            when you begin your ascent. . . .
I understand you now.
You that in one fell swoop
Broke your pens, brushes, and palettes
When you saw nearby
The song and dance, clap and play, fun and frolic in full swing,
And the stranger slyly
Making fun of you. . . .

13 October 2002


This is a Lilliputian world
The colossal city turns into a large miniature panorama
When I look at it from above,
On the sixty-fifth floor—
Matchlike poles, boxlike buildings
High-rise structures dwarfed, except a few
Similarly shaped and colored cars—like running insects
People like ants stubbornly slow
And suddenly
With a deafening buzz
A helicopter flies by like a fly down below . . .

Its propeller evokes a foolish desire
To reach out
Of this huge glass window
As if I were a giant firefly
I want to catch it, grab its tail
And fly with it for a couple of seconds—or even one
At one glance, to try to appraise
The light and shadow of life
Then let go of it—jump off, fall down, float away
From tormented existence to desirable nullity
Carrying in my eyes and in my heart
The agonizing infatuation with this unembraceable world.

20 October 2002

Original in Armenian by Zareh Khrakhouni
Translated by Arto Khrimian
                and Lori Khrimian

© 2005 by Artin Cumbusyan (Zareh Khrakhouni)

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