Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Live from Holy Cross: Ralph Nazareth reading Vahan Tekeyan and Siamanto

Ralph Nazareth - photo by Khatchik Turabian

Vahan Takeyan: The Country of Dust

Small. Miniaturized, yet you insist
on shaking your canyons and cliffs with huge
spasms as if you were the centre of the earth
and the magnet that draws out and fills every sea.
So small. A corner. Not even a corner.
Scattered points, dispersed and dispersing lines
of fallen walls, walls you imagine the palace
you once raised from this mantle of dust.
How can you dream of old architecture
today when every edifice caves in
to make way for new shapes?
Any shock can erase you forever and no eye
will even blink. Yours alone the concern. But hope
rises like the sun. Accumulate. Dust consolidates into stone.

Translated from the Armenian by Diana Der Hovanessian and Marzbed Margossian.

Grief by Siamanto

You, stranger soul mate
Who leaves behind the road of joy,
listen to me.
I know your innocent feet are still wet with blood. Foreign hands have come and yanked out
the sublime rose of freedom
which finally bloomed from the pains of your race.
Let its divine scent intoxicate everyone,
Let everyone—those far away, your neighbor, the ungrateful, come and burn incense
before the goddess of Justice
that you carved from the stone with your hammer.
Proud sowers, let others reap with your scythes
the wheat that ripens in the gold earth you ploughed. Because if you are chased down by raw Evil,
don't forget that you are
to bring forth the fruitful Good.
Walk down the avenues of merriment
and don’t let the happy ones see in your eyes
that image of corpse and ash.
Spare the passerby, whether a good man or a criminal, because Armenian pain
rises up in the eye’s visage.
As you walk through the crossroad of merriment
don’t let a speck of gladness or a tear
stain grief’s majesty.
Because for the vanquished, tears are cowardly
and for the victors, the smile is frivolous, a wrinkle.
Armenian woman, with veils darkening you like death.
You, young man with native anguish running down your face,
walk down roads without rage of hate and exclaim: what a bright day,
what a sarcastic grave digger...
What a mob, what dances, what joy
and what feasts everywhere...
our red shrouds are victory flags.
the bones of your pure brothers are flutes... with them others are making strange music. 
But don’t shudder, unknown sister
or brother of fate.
As you study the stars,
take heart, go on.
The law of life stays the same
human beings can’t understand each other.
And this evening before the sunset
all of you will go back to your houses, whether they are mud or marble,
and calmly close the treacherous 
Shutters of your windows.
shut them from the wicked 
Capital, shut them to the face of humanity,
and to the face of your God...,
Even the lamp on your table
will be extinguished
by your soul’s one clear whispers.

Translated from the Armenian by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian

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