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.
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.