I Love You / Yes Kez Sirum'em
These poems are a sonnet cycle; commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide (April 24th, 1915-2015), when the Young Turks systematically murdered 1.5 million Ottoman-Armenians; marching mainly women and children into the deserts of southern Turkey, Der-ez-Zor. The poems are based on the music of the torch song singer Datevik Hovanesian and use phrases in Armenian within the poems (though since the translations are part of the titles I hope it doesn’t cause too much confusion). I myself am not Armenian, though I had the honor of living in the country for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, working in an orphanage for infants in the city of Gyumri.
[The Light, The Moonlight / Es Gisher,
Something is burning through these dry desert
streams. A wind – glowing, grating, fluoresce.
A storm is burning through these dreams. The dirt
from these cattle cars. It is a cloudless
night, I can see – no. I cannot speak this
language. These dreams. A scream. I cannot speak.
Things are burning. This sight is both a bliss
and a curse. Sight is a curse. I am weak,
moonlight, lusniak gisher; blind these screams
from me. Blind me. I loved you – now farewell.
I loved you, once, now you twist and deform,
moonlight, lusniak gisher – all my dreams;
this sound of flesh, light and firestorm; this smell
of fat melting and consuming firestorm.
[The Breeze / Hov Arek]
I am ill from waiting for you — too long –
waited for you all — waited for you all.
I am ill with change. Daylong and nightlong;
changing unchanging, all restless. I crawl.
I stand. I faint. I – ill with signs. Sweating
in your breeze, hov arek. All so cold, shawl
cast down, eyes cast down. So ill. Shivering
desert. In all the cattle cars. Each wall
blocks you, little breeze, hov arek. Who pleads
for me? Who pleads? Listen to this dreadful
song I would sing. I would. My throat, bloody,
gags. I am ill. That is all. My throat bleeds.
My throat bleeds. That is all. Now my little
ill breeze, hov arek, you must sing for me.
[I am Burning / Ervum Em’]
Skim by these holes, sink holes, a crust covered
in skin. A crust, the foulest of – dust. Skim
the long ladle pool. Dust from skin – the word
for skin I’ve forgotten. Teach me the hymn
of your grandmother. Teach me how to burn.
Blackened pools long dried. Cattle cars now grim
rust burnt from your hymns – bodies all iron,
all bone, now rust. The right tongue can teach you
to fight, moonlight. The right door can open
everything. Sing that hymn, “I am burning,”
ervum em’. Not this crust skin; hymn about
your tongues ripped out and no one would listen.
Door shuts; voices on a record, skipping,
skimming, hissing – No way out. No way out.
All these fingers are dirty – lick them clean.
There is dough in my hair – kiss me clean. With
a kiss like this. Obscene. All day you’ve seen
me make bread. Lavash. Song of flat bread; myth
of dough rolled flat slapped against tonir walls.
Simple song of flat bread; the dead’s flat food.
Simple smell. The smell of burning. Night falls
and the dead still burn. The dead’s bread; imbued
with grief. What else? I am leaving; come kiss
me clean. Clean all my fingers, clean my soul,
clean my lips, my body – like this – like this.
When you make bread, you make me; when you roll
the bread flat you touch me. I’ll be ghostly
so soon. Touch me. Touch me. Touch me.
[note: Lavash is a popular flat bread in Armenia; Tonir is an oven used to cook the bread.]
[I Love You / Yes Kez Sirum'em]
Dawn comes. “A Love Supreme” scratching, swinging,
bluing, singing. One lone moonbeam – my scream
cools. Love redeemed when you taught me to sing.
To speak. Your words. Your words. My dream. My dream.
My scream still burns – desert cattle cars rang
through the moonlight and the breeze and partridge
sang and all the world’s crusted burned skin sang
with this — Language of memory. Language
against forgetting. Against the mayhem
of this past. Cut out my scream, redeem my
vast love, lover. You who loves me. You who
taught me to love again. Yes kez sirum
‘em. I love you. Yes kez sirum 'em. I
love you. Yes kez sirum 'em. I love you.