Thursday, May 05, 2016

Michael Minassian: Conversation in Connecticut

On this crisp fall afternoon, 
Jack swings the axe 
in one smooth motion,
splitting the logs one after another;
gazing out past the driveway
to the stand of bent white elms,
he pauses, then hands me the axe
as if he were asking me to write
a chapter in his latest novel.

“When I left Tehran,” he says, 
“the only thing my father said
was that we would talk again.” 

As I swing the axe down,
the loud thwack startles the crows
hiding among the elms, and I imagine
I can hear them talking in a low murmur
like smoke curling under a door.
Jack grunts and seems to dismiss 
the crows with a wave of his hand,
then fills his pipe, and lights it,
closing his eyes, and I wait for the end
of the story that I know will come,
and he says, “Of course, we never did.”

Later, we stack the wood into long piles
next to the back door, and I build a fire
in the stone fireplace in Jack’s study
while he clacks his ancient Remington
creating his father’s inner world: 
“Something has to burn,” he says, 
“if there is going to be light.”
and I picture the words flaring into flame
on the page like love annihilating loss
or black crows scattering against gun metal gray clouds
on their way to an ocean too vast to cross.

Originally published in The Aurorean, Fall/Winter 2013-14.

Recently relocated to San Antonio and Michael Minassian is adjusting to life as a Texan.  Some of his poems have appeared recently in such journals as The Broken PlateThe Comstock Review, Exit 7, Main Street Rag, and The Meadow.  Amsterdam Press published a chapbook of his poems entitled The Arboriculturist in 2010. His blog is 

Author's Note:  The Jack in this poem is based on my uncle, Jack Karapetian  (1925-1994), who wrote under the pen name of Hakob Karapents. Born in Tabriz, Iran, Jack was a prolific Armenian-American writer who wrote almost exclusively in Armenian. As a toddler, I followed Uncle Jack around the three-bedroom apartment in the Bronx and sat on his lap as he pounded away on his typewriter. In later years, he encouraged my writing and often read my poems and short stories, making comments and suggestions. After he retired and moved to Connecticut, we would  go for long walks and discuss the craft of writing. I still consider him my mentor and muse and have written a series of poems around him.

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