Armenians are marched to a nearby prison in Mezireh by armed Turkish soldiers. Kharpert, Armenia, Ottoman Empire – April, 1915. From the collection of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives. Photographed by an anonymous German traveler.
There were moonlit nights and many moonless nights
sober and drunken in one grain of sand
in billions of grains there were filthy hands
mud and fingernails between sunburned thighs
this is not my skin with nerves inside out
not my breast squeezed into faint whimpers
like dying swallows caught in a dry mouth
soon I’ll be a memory in last verse of songs
someone meant to write on a summer night
flesh to sand and sand to a story to tell
they’ll mention tattoos* and how I was a slave
look look how many stars in one grain of sand
in a billion grains in a billion tears
screams tangled like strings through my broken ribs
you did not know me then
before much before they tore off my clothes
and the desert night shivered with their rage
you did not see how my hair flowed like silk
on soft pillows where teenage dreams were weaved
you did not know me dressed with flowers in my hair
and my fathers arm around my adolescent frame
you did not see the stars from our wide windows
above the vineyard and my feet bare on the fertile soil
in our apricot tree’s cool summer shade
I’m in the evening news – in a pile of bones
look at the skull at the very left
see the sparrow lodged between those clenched jaws
I’m in the evening news a hundred years late
in the grains of sand shifting restless with shame
in the billion stars in your sky tonight
in my mother’s voice singing kenatzir pallas*
in the moonlit nights and the moonless nights
on a dagger’s blade in the Deir ez-Zor sand
– Silva Merjanian
24 April 2016 is the 101th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, when thousands of women were dragged in the desert, raped and tortured before killed.
- the reference to tattoos … they used to tattoo the women according to who owned them.
- Kenatzir pallas is a lullaby very popular with Armenians and means “go to sleep my child”
“Silva’s poetry rewards the reader with the gift of exquisite lacework, adorned with choice words and skillfully wrought poetic imagery, which allow you to get a glimpse of both the intoxicating sensuality of survival and the scalpel scars on the tender skin of life. Many-layered, it excels alike in depicting the sphere of personal experience and of traumatic social issues.” – Dr. Aprilia Zank. Lecturer for Creative Writing and Translation Theory Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany in a review of Silva’s collection Rumor. Three poems rom this collection are Pushcart nominees. The net profits including the publisher’s go to The Armenian-Syrian Relief Fund. About $5,000 dollars have been raised to date.
© 2016, poem and book cover design, Silva Merjanian, All rights reserved; featured here with the permission of the poet; Silva’s website is HERE.; the header photograph is a public domian photograph courtesy of Project Save.