Songs of Bread*
by Diana Der-Hovanessian
You think I wrote from love.
You think I wrote from ease.
You imagine me singing as I walked
through wheat, praising bread.
You imagine me looking from my window
at my children in the grass, my wife
humming, my dog running, my sun
still warm. But this notebook is
drenched in blood. It is written in blood
in a wagon rolling pas yellow,
amber, gold wheat. But in the dark,
in the smell of sweat, urine, vomit.
The song of blue pitchers filled
with sweet milk, the song of silver
fountains welcoming students home,
the song of silo, barn, harvest,
tiller and red soil, all written
in the dark. The Turks allowed it.
What harm in a pen soon to be theirs,
a notebook to be theirs, a coat,
theirs, unless too much blood splattered.
You read and picture me in
a tranquil village, a church, on
the Bosphorus, on a hillside, not
in anguish, not in fury, not wrenching
back the dead, holding the sun still
for a few more hours, making
bread out of words. This notebook you ransomed,
dear friend, postponed, delayed my storm.
You see only its calm.
*Title of a volume of poems by Armenian poet Daniel Varoujan published
after his death, from his prison notebooks, kept while he was awaiting
his execution (by stoning) at the outset of the Turkish massacres of the
Armenians in 1915. The notebook, Songs of Bread, containing sunny, pastoral
poems, was sold by his jailers to an Armenian priest. The title poem was
missing. This poem attempts to supply it in Varoujanís voice.
Copyright © 1990 by Diana Der-Hovanessian.
Reprinted from Songs of Bread, Songs of Salt
by Diana Der-Hovanessian. New York: Ashod Press, 1990.