for Michael J. Arlen

 

Walking on stones
with soles bared, that’s
what it must have been like.
Your pilgrimage, antithesis
of your father’s on the winding
pocked road of the diaspora – Plovdiv,
Paris, London. . . he chose
anglophilia, changed his name,
became an English dandy,
writer of British romances spoken
with Oxfordian perfection. Worse yet,
the mocking of his forebears as “quirky”
and besides, “the language was impossible”.
His identity, and yours, doused
with the acid of his shame, vaporized.

Brave soul, you chose the journey –
the one he would never imagine.
The road back – Yerevan!, where
the eternal flame burns, where
you tossed a yellow rose
into the burning oil, your tears
a cascade down your cheeks
like snowmelt from the slopes
of Ararat. The tears your father
could not shed. Forgive him,
hold close his tortured heart.

     

Soul Brother

We celebrated for three days, chewed on stories,
grooved with Paul Robeson, Joe Cocker,
Jimmy Cliff, Louis Armstrong, got down and dusty
on baby backs, collards, dirty rice, sweet potato pie.
Drowned the blues in drink, raised the rafters with hallelujahs.

The day-after tears – not the choked back kind but
full-bore gushing – finally swamped me
like a rogue wave. I am lost,
marooned on an isle of mourning. Dusk
falls in silence, I grope the gloom
for solace, praying for grace. It is late fall –
a rising gibbous moon backlights skeletal maple,
the marigolds rust and wilt, squirrels rustle
leaves burying winter caches, fallen apples
rot to their cores, geese in v-formation
intent on climes more clement.

You shouldn't have left so soon, there are things
not finished. We were to be octogenarians together,
to be the wisest of the wise – wiser than Solomon,
filled with more stories than the eldest griot.

You shouldn't have left so suddenly, there
are things yet unsaid, inchoate raps in need
of ripening – never mind proper farewells.

Tomorrow's forecast is inclement. I shall write
your epitaph, as asked, and weep some more
in concert with the rain. In December days
perhaps the cold will numb but I will feel
mortality's sleety sting against a frozen face.

Come March, April the crocuses' yellows
and purples will not be quite so brilliant,
the grass shoots not quite so verdant,
the mockingbirds' trills and runs
a shade short of their usual bravura.
I shall dig holes for plantings nonetheless.

Krikor N. Der Hohannesian lives in Medford, MA. His poems have been thrice-nominated for a Pushcart prize and have appeared in many literary journals including The Evansville Review, The South Carolina Review, Atlanta Review, Louisiana Literature, Connecticut Review, Natural Bridge, and Comstock Review. He is the author of two chapbooks,Ghosts and Whispers (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Refuge in the Shadows (Cervena Barva Press, 2013). Ghosts and Whispers was a finalist for the Mass Book awards poetry category in 2011.