Monday, May 11, 2015

Live from Holy Cross: Alan Semerdjian reading Siamanto

Click to hear the audio segment

Alan Semerdjian - photo by Khatchik Turabian

The Dance
by Siamanto (Atom Yarjanian 
(Translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian)

In a field of cinders where Armenian life
was still dying,
a German woman, trying not to cry
told me the horror she witnessed:

"This thing I'm telling you about,
I saw with my own eyes,
Behind my window of hell
I clenched my teeth
and watched the town of Bardez turn
into a heap of ashes.
The corpses were piled high as trees,
and from the springs, from the streams and the road,
the blood was a stubborn murmur,
and still calls revenge in my ear.

Don't be afraid; I must tell you what I saw.
so people will understand
the crimes men do to men.
For two days, by the road to the graveyard …

Let the hearts of the world understand,
It was Sunday morning,
the first useless Sunday dawning on the corpses.
From dawn to dusk I had been in my room
with a stabbed woman —
my tears wetting her death —
when I heard from afar
a dark crowd standing in a vineyard
lashing twenty brides
and singing filthy songs.

Leaving the half-dead girl on the straw mattress,
I went to the balcony of my window
and the crowd seemed to thicken like a clump of trees
An animal of a man shouted, "You must dance,
dance when our drum beats."
With fury whips cracked
on the flesh of these women.
Hand in hand the brides began their circle dance.
Now, I envied my wounded neighbor
because with a calm snore she cursed
the universe and gave up her soul to the stars …

"Dance," they raved,
"dance till you die, infidel beauties
With your flapping tits, dance!
Smile for us. You're abandoned now,
you're naked slaves,
so dance like a bunch of fuckin' sluts.
We're hot for your dead bodies."
Twenty graceful brides collapsed.
"Get up," the crowed screamed,
brandishing their swords.

Then someone brought a jug of kerosene.
Human justice, I spit in your face.
The brides were anointed.
"Dance," they thundered —
"here's a fragrance you can't get in Arabia."

With a torch, they set
the naked brides on fire.
And the charred bodies rolled
and tumbled to their deaths …

I slammed my shutters,
sat down next to my dead girl
and asked: "How can I dig out my eyes?"

Siamanto, Bloody News from My Friend, Wayne State University, 1996.

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