Thursday, April 30, 2009

Helene Pilibosian: HISTORY'S TWISTS

Spirit climbs
where rhymes chime bold.
The bells of diction.
The rills of sound.
The goddess Anahit grew
in pagan beauty bounds.
With a gold bracelet
and an Armenian coin,
I dreamed reams of time
and climbed the Roman fence
like the adventurous vine
to the ancient Antioch yard.
A rooster crowed on an ancient day
near a mountain that sang praise
in the minor key.
It was the Asian symphony
with soldiers rollicking
in their nights of Bacchus.

The walls of empire were strong
but as legions went along they cracked.
Bits of mosaic that had tiled the floors
of the baths became artifacts.
Armenians grew the grapes
as that throne rose,
rams locking horns in habitual battle.
Armenians were lost,
but hung onto some Roman whims
like designs of rams and peacocks
in their embroidery,
like the rooster on the mountain
and the handsome profiles
of Roman men and women.

Armenians commanded
kings and property.
There were dynasties,
one after another, that entered
into the total mentality.
Give me a primer or a tale,
that of Tigran ruling for unity of states,
that of Queen Satenig with silk and gold thread.
Royalty in the clothes is also in the head.
It was then dead after the cymbal clash
lost its willing dash.
Impotent candles roamed the palaces.
Manuscripts found their thrones.
Puffs of incense rose.
Give me a primer showing
soldier Vartan freeing the cross
from the Persian deity.
Then there was Byzantine fealty.
Celebrations breed celebrations.
Celebrations seed us.

The Euphrates was near with ideas,
its belly having been swollen
with domination for so long it burst.
Centuries were the sanctuary
from which even the Church
took its inspiration in songs of the mass
that oozed a sweet sadness.
The Turkish sword or empire.
The Soviet Union hammer.
Yet landscapes were still
on perpetual loan for art.
Presidents adjusted the manners
of kings and czars.
The soothing hand of banners
was on their brows.

My heritage was born
out of the ice of these rivers
as God washed time with fine soap
and made it leather boots
for stepping in mud
and climbing through snow.
The tryst of the old
rhymes with people who were cold.
The beat of the new
rhymes with what to do.

The immortal grapevine
bears the leaves that wrap our lives,
the taste of tradition
preparing grapes for wine,
the fame of Armenian cognac
and of recovery in time.

From the book History's Twists: The Armenians by Helene Pilibosian, copyright 2007, honorable mention from Writer's Digest Book Awards.

Helene Pilibosian was born in Boston, MA, and lives in Watertown, MA. She attended Harvard University from which she received a degree in the humanities. After working as an editor at The Armenian Mirror-Spectator, she now heads Ohan Press, a private bilingual micropress.
Her poems have appeared in such magazines as The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Louisiana Literature, The Hollins Critic, North American Review, Seattle Review, Ellipsis and Weber: The Contemporary West and in many anthologies. She has published the books Carvings from an Heirloom: Oral History Poems, At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems and History’s Twists: The Armenians. Her early work has been cited in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature.

[HELENE PILIBOSIAN's latest book, History's Twists, won honorable mention in the Writer's Digest 16th Annual International Poetry Competition. - LK]

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