Forgotten corner of the caliphate,
mother’s birthplace, she
uprooted at two, a tramp steamer
to Salonika - otherwise another statistic
in the million and a half or, worse,
a concubine in some pasha’s seraglio.
Cousin Anahid went back,
the family home survives .
She is eager to describe. Her mother
made the trip at 100, her voice
awash in weeping the entire stay.
Don’t tell me, I plead.
The pomegranate trees, the bushes
hunched with pistachios, the smell of lamb
spit-roasted, the line dancing,
the happy voices –
it all disappears if you tell me.
Pamuk says Armenian houses in Kars
are ghost houses, haunted by specters
that wail bloody murder. One by one
the last of those who survived April, 1915,
pass on – the thread frays to a wisp.
Five decades I have pondered going back,
wondering if I would spit on the first Turk I saw,
Tell me to my face you still deny it! Tell me!
But I fear the ghosts. I fear mourning
what was never mine , the sadness
I have no right to feel - it belongs to hairig and nene.
Instead, with those who survive
I leave instructions: till my ashes
into the patch at Mt. Auburn
where their bones molder.
Wait ‘til April, I say, the cherry tree
rooted to their graves
will be in full bloom then.
This poem has previously appeared in Main Street Rag.
Monday, January 19, 2009