Poetry Porch: Poetry


Only One Other Poem
by Diana Der-Hovanessian

The Armenian poem is different
from any other poem.
It is the Hittite chant
of its ancestors. It is the Urartuan
song of the past. The Christian hymn
it inherited. It is the bardic tale
of its middle ages. It is the golden
flight of the 19th century phoenix
out of the dark. It is the secret
revolutionary heart that beats
inside Serop and Murad that Lorca
and Neruda imagined beat inside
only the Spanish poem.
It is the lonely prison poem
of Varoujan which Whitman thought
could be written only in America.
But the Armenian poem is different.
It had to be written in exile.

It is the song of the crane,
a dry rattle without words
or music, only yearning.
No other language can sing
the Armenian poem except perhaps
the Palestinian and the Israeli
can each sing half of it and understand
how one poem can grow two different
flowers from a single root.

The Armenian poem has a landscape
without humans left on it.
Its old heroes are all poets
turned revolutionaries.
Look at Varoujan ablaze, Siamanto
a storm, Charents a red fire.

Only Gomidas knows the true melody
of the Armenian poem but
he wrote only half. The other half
is lost in the hills of Armenian
Anatolia, never sung, only echoed.
The last scream of a mad Gomidas
was no, no. But the old poem
had said, yes.

Cold as the stars that once blazed heat
the poem is written in cold light
different from any other unless
you have heard the Polish poem
about strangers walking, walking,
walking through as if their country
were a highway, not an inn.
The Armenian poem is
different. It does not confess
a personal pain, personal love
or describe the eye seeing the star,
only how the star can blind the eye.
Only the Cambodian poet describes 
such flesh-scarring light.

The Armenian poem is different
from any other poem. Even though
it sees its past repeated in Karabagh
it does not repeat the same old rhythms.
It wants a new tempo.
Only one other poem has such a heavy heart
and that poem is still waiting to be sung.

Only when a great Turkish poet comes
and reaches out a hand drenched in blood
and says “Wash me clean, I want to write
without the ghosts of dead poets between
us, cursing my songs.” Only that Turkish poem
can know what the Armenian poem knows.

Copyright © 2002 by Diana Der-Hovanessian. From a theatre piece, Secret of Survival.
Reprinted from The Burning Glass by Diana Der-Hovanessian. Riverdale-on-Hudson, NY: Sheep Meadow Press, 2002.