Wednesday, November 18, 2015


In 1929, my grandfather’s boss 
at Hovanian Oriental Carpets 
ran out of money, so paid him his wages 

in brightly woven rugs from Armenia, Turkey,
Afghanistan and China, “Take this, home,”
the owner said, “d’ram cheega.”

So week after week he brought home carpets,
tacking them to the floors then the walls 
of the three bedroom apartment 

in the Bronx, using a large 
Persian rug as a bedspread, 
and another to protect the couch.

Then my grandmother covered 
the kitchen table, refrigerator, and stove,
the bathtub, toilet, and sink;

next, she stitched together clothes:
pants, shirts, underwear, and socks,
and convinced the cobbler down the block

to make shoes for the whole neighborhood;
then they lined the street and sidewalk
with carpets and tapestries, remnants, and rugs.

Soon you could walk barefoot on Bathgate Avenue,
while up in the apartment, my grandmother 
cut strips of fabric to bake or fry,

serving the pieces mixed with rice pilaf,
or toasting thin slices in the morning,
stuffing the rest into the coffee grinder

boiling it down as thick as Turkish coffee,
a stiff bitter tonic
served with salt and sand.

Michael Minassian

"The Great Depression" was originally published in the Red Earth Review 's Summer 2015 issue.

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