Monday, May 18, 2015

Live from Holy Cross: Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte reading Shushanik Kurghinian

Click to hear the audio segment

Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte - photo by Khatchik Turabian

I Want to Live

I want to live–but not a lavish life 
trapped in obscurity–indifferent and foolish, 
nor as an outright hostage of artificial beauty, 
a frail creature–delicate and feeble, 
but equal to you–oh men–prosperous 
as you are–powerful and headstrong– 
fit against calamities–ingenious in mind, 
with bodies full of vigor.
I want to love–unreserved–without a mask– 
self-willed like you–so that when in love 
I can sing my feelings to the world 
and unchain my heart–a woman’s heart, 
before the crowds?ignoring their stern 
judgmen’s with my shield and destroy 
the pointed arrows aimed at me 
with all my vitality unrestrained!
I want to act–equal–next to you– 
as a loyal member of the people, 
let me suffer again and again–night or day– 
wandering from one place to another– 
always struggling for the ideal 
of freedom?and let this burden 
torment me in my exile, 
if only I may gain a purpose in this life.
I want to eat comfortably–as you do, 
from that same fair bread–for which 
I gave my share of holy work; 
in the struggle for existence–humble and meek, 
without feeling shame–let me 
shed sweat and tears for a blessed earning, 
let scarlet blood flow from my worker’s hands 
and let my back tire in pain!
I want to fight–first as your rival, 
standing against you with an old vengeance, 
since absurdly and without mercy you 
turned me into a vassal through love and force. 
Then after clearing these disputes of my gender, 
I want to fight against the agonies of life, 
courageously like you–hand in hand, 
facing this struggle to be or not.


I pity you, dull-witted women,
for chasing after rouge and beauty aids,
wasting away your time without a goal,
with faces adorned for lewd sale.

For using any possible means to
always please and gratify men,
day and night obsessing only
how to set traps of jealousy.

For robbing those who love you
of their last penny earned in pain,
at times of distress, callous and low
like owls you hoot, playing the victim.

For having a subtle instinct of marketing,
selling yourselves for the highest price,
bickering endlessly over style, appearance,
a circus show of fashion rivalry.

I pity you, vain captives, whose
thoughts are lost in folds of velvet
for having minds that are utterly vacant,
for having hearts that are tainted with deceit.


In our worn out jackets, oil-stained and sooty,
Trampled caps and dirty hair,
Jaundiced, poor, barefoot,
Sometimes pale, sometimes docile,
Sometimes marked with the black stamp
Of hunger and quiet suffering,
Sometimes filled with riotous disdain,
Unruly rage and vengeance!
With the wearisome pain of aging too soon,
Longing for the light and fresh air,
Hopeful for a dignified life,
With deep wounds still raw in our hearts—
……………………We, the workers—
Unpaid hands toiling for the bloated stomachs,
Layers of fat, mounds of gold . . !
……………………We, the workers—
Comrades in sorrow and tears,
Half-starved life, prison, and exile . . !
……………………We, the workers—
Twisted in the drive to live and cheaply sold
In the base marketplace of existence . . !
O monstrous leeches,
Vile stranglers of invention, of human life,
You, insensible moles
With your corrupt lust for opulence,
You, shameful gravediggers and
Hangmen of sacred freedom,
You, soul-snatching demons of new hopes,
……………………You, sated bodies!
Impoverished souls!
Perhaps our afflicted faces
Aren’t moving enough for your gentle senses?
For isn’t it true that
……………………You feed yourselves,
……………………You prosper and grow
From every drop of our blood,
Our salty, bitter sweat,
Our endless flood of tears,
Our strong, laboring arms,
Our bent backs, restless souls,
Our terror of unimagined death
Always lurking above our heads . . ?
And disgruntled you throw a few petty crumbs
As payment for our labors,
As if we were humanity’s stepchildren
And you—the fittest wrestlers of enjoyment
……………………And unjust life . . !
Out of the age-old furnace of privation
Out of persecution, out of slavery,
……………………We, the neglected class—
To smash the rulers’ glory with our chests—
To break the throne of violence—the slave’s chains—
To build a new path for ourselves and others
Deserving of freedom—
……………………THAT’S HOW WE ARE COMING . . !

1907. All poems translated by Shushan Avagyan

1 comment:

շուշան ավագյան said...

Thank you all for organizing this event and especially thanks to Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte for their beautiful performance of Kurghinian's poetry. Merci Lola for posting this on the web and sharing it with the world. It moves me to no end. With love from Yerevan, Shushan Avagyan