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TAKE THIS DYING WALTZ
     A valentine poem 

Silva Zanoyan Merjanian


Take this waltz it’s been dying for years

Leonard Cohen


Now across the wood table the city slouches on a chair, 
its yawn beneath Cohen’s dying waltz, it took to every 
empty bed.

Not intimate yet, nor strangers to conversation tangled
in stammer of this rain, 

comfortable with the way midnight stretches cold and naked 
between us, in the kitchen’s florescent glare.

You translate my voice to fit on your cracked walls, 
losing the cadence in vowels, longings, graffiti regrets,


and a new lie dressed in lace strays from my lips into streets
offering a dozen long -stem roses, tips curling ‘round wilting
names.

 

You say the moon's overpriced when vulnerable and in a box,
as I sign yet another card Love of your life.


Between the city’s knees, our song still plays.  My Funny Valentine
stops loneliness from crawling up varicose veins on this quotidian 
dance.

Under the table I shed glitter like dander from past valentines
breathing on my neck.

 

(Unpublished) 

2. WRITER’S BLOCK
  for a poet replanted

 

I thought I had you by frilled hem of a metaphor,

but street-light’s flood of yellow fog

hushes me again to a mere doubt in your hands.   

We are diverging. 

Your flare escapes fingertips, 

turns corners and crosses streets, 

collides with slippery notes of Blue Café

playing in a city that echoes back, 

 

Take all you know, and say goodbye, 

your innocence, inexperience

mean nothing now. 

 

There’s a poem dying on the sidewalk.

We will bury it with the rest. 

 

It starts to rain. 

What’s a poem without rain? 

I lose you in the downpour of words

slit and gutted to this city’s taste.

 

You say, write the streets

after they flatten you against a wall, 

see the gutter fill with regret.

 

Write the river 

until you drown in the rising water

 

You let go of the wind,

it's taken you high and dropped you 

when you least expect.

A poem like that is road - kill at best.

 

I've seen your white collarbone at 3 am 

and you've seen my hysteria when alone,

our footsteps swept from the streets, 

appear again in verses, wander in alleys 

picking shame with the trash.  


A city does not forget shame.



Some poets never make it home.

 

Write, write the homeless till you are one yourself,

let an alley cradle your ribcage.

 

With the smell of an animal in my hair, 

I write your lust till it’s dry semen 

stuck to a sole after the train’s departed.  

But a city never forgets heave of a moment 
that cut like a butcher's blade.

 

Write!  Damn you, write the longing!

 

It burns, it burns where a scar runs on edge of a poem, 
to a heart and back,
to between-lines, only a night drunk on a full –moon’s light  

grasps.

 

And when a poem takes you home, 

puts you to bed alone, 

you hear the city turn to its side, 

face the wall where the street- light 

doesn't reach at all,


and crows flutter in your throat, 

looking for a way out, 
they die on a line clenched between molars.

 

A dream wakes up in a dream on your tongue,

and you swallow your raw words.

Call it writer’s block, when dawn 

tells you of all this, while sober and free 

of the night’s spell.   

 

 

(Peacock Journal) 


3. SECOND CHANCE

In honor of Aylan Kurdi, Syrian child who drowned in the Aegean Sea
Dedicated to all mothers who lost children to war

 

There's a lone seabird pacing the seashore,

there’s a nursery rhyme curdling sullied sand,

there’s a woman sobbing beneath my ribs

and a wolf negotiating a truce with its tails.

There’s a poet with a voice low and gentle,

his words macerate in spit of death.

 

It is not pomegranates bleeding from their lips

but pleas soiling seas licking lacerated waves.

Damascus festers in a shallow grave,

dogs digging bones, prayers, jasmine sprigs.

 

It is 3 am in California, and my room is lit soft yellow

by a moon I befriended with no strings attached,

and lullaby of the Pacific falls on my covers

yet the woman beneath my ribs still weeps.

 

There’s an empty crib among olive trees,

a distance I cross on a seabird’s dream,

there’s a traumatized moon lying in my lap,

a feral woman fracturing my ribs,

pleading deities for a second chance.



(The BeZine Bardo Group Beguines)

4- BEIRUT

Over there

all that happened

(and didn’t happen)

folded

packed in mental mothballs

stories fading with licked creases

some reduced and softer versions  

wonder why I preserve breaths

forced through my lungs in those days

stringed around the eye of a hurricane

circling, demonic, nameless

shaking me shameless for a day

 

on nights when a collective sigh stings

and I can’t tell

which tale will toll for me

and which nocturnal howl

will lift the dust

through endless times

relive slivers

on a pink tip of my tongue

afraid to bite a dreamt memory

that it might hemorrhage

bleed the night

 

 

I want a dripping whiff of that afternoon coffee

instinctively bitter, solemnity and hot

ten minutes when lonely hearts

willed an arching cease fire

and time hovered among us

long enough for my mother

to build castles in my cup

 

 

over there

the man flying his doves

on the roof across two streets

remains a blur

but the doves stirring the air

in perfect shades of unison

(I had named them after heroes long forgot)

sometimes still raise dust in my room

of their feathers’ aches and plight

 

I believed then

I could break away

would break away

I did one day

the doves were left to die

 

over there

at dusk my father played the mandolin

and my mother’s voice filled all the gaps

between our breaths -

the dam that held surpluses of war

long enough for us to shed in dreams

 

why do I long for hell

on nights

when I can’t sieve my sigh from the wind’s eye

and I wonder if I ever broke away

from a circle named dead doves  

 

perhaps 

scent of jasmine

still smells like home

back home in the rain

(Counterpunch, Rumor)

  

5. SAINTS IN MY RAIN

 

I learned the rain in cursive slants

I learned lying on doubts

spread on the sacred and not

spread on my bed, my pillow, my exhale

the crust of every lie I loved

tainted with silver sliver of your tongue

 

I turned that night on its back

after you went to bed

your streets indebted

to shadows of restless dreams

bruising on its replaced ribs

where trash collectors compress

disposed remnants

in the ruble

life’s severed limbs

an envy here

a longing there

a nothingness holier than my prayers

 

and I add

that face without the lips

under the face with muffled shame

under the face I used to have

on heaps of unfinished poems  

where a lemon tree and jasmine blossoms

promised mornings

colored and scented at my fingertips

 

I learned the rain in every lie

in stammer of your pavements

where Saints gather in line at rock bottoms stacked

between my howl and a crow’s black squawk

wrists dripping prayers on St Rita’s solemn face

she sympathizes but says tonight she owns the ledge

 

there’s always mad laughter at the foot of beds

where Saints sleep on their sides facing the drapes

that catch the city’s quieting breath

misting under street lamps

that catch impelled compromise

in bourbon shots and blues on a clarinet

as lonely as you

that time when you asked my name

sometimes I tell you

long after you’ve gone to bed

 

 

(Rumor)
6. TONIGHT

 

Tonight a thousand eyelids will close on beautiful lies  

and quivering lips will sleep unkissed

untouched by sultry blue jazz in the dark 

tonight lust will blister on menopausal gritty tongues

and blind vultures will circle parameters of a man’s heart


tonight middle-aged men will look for love in midtown bars

and women selling artificial flavors to the tune of hallelujahs

will sharpen their knives

 

tonight poets will find the words to color their hell

and dip their pens in wounds that aren’t even theirs

 

tonight somewhere it will rain on wingless birds

their love songs mending broken pillows in high notes   

 

tonight she will step out with her hair down, in new stilettos 

she’ll blow a kiss with naked lips through the door left ajar 

 

tonight, tonight’s no different than any other night

the walls are thin, the moon is skinned, blindfolds handed free

 


(Counterpunch, Rumor)
  

7. RAIN HAD NO SCENT IN GENEVA IN NOVEMBER
  
Rain was relentless in November.

Cobblestones in Geneva carried 
echoes as if greetings in foreign 
language, pelting lace-curtained   
panes on the Rive Gauche. 

Streets stalked scuffed heels 
with a drenched hiss, casting shadows 
on rain’s exhale, then curved and coiled
in ashtrays on Rue de Rhone, 

and faces I met, 
melted nameless on fogged windows 
of crowded cafés.

Traffic, strangers, cigarette stubs 

piled in ashes...

trading one envy with another.


None of them mine.

 

My feet drifted in glazed-eye yearnings  
to debris, wailing, prayers for peace 
rising in rainwater 
along Beirut’s deserted streets.  


I, still had hail in my shoes 
from Rue Mexique. 

 

Over there, 
the walls were damp from inside.


Bones deliquesced in fantasies 
rain often brought with scent 

of Jasmine.

Always Jasmine... vestige of spring

lingered there in our dreams.



And cigarettes yet to be smoked 
were hidden behind history books 
on a shelf, where hope was tucked 
and forgotten by daylight. 


Most days, at half past four 

November smelled of the sea 
burning evidence of bloodshed 
on its floor. 

 

On Rue de Rhone 
nothing had scent in November.

I could not tell the way back home

when there was no fear

shedding bread crumbs, 

no panic sweat 

oozing from ancient sidewalks,


no story to tell after dark; 
I hadn’t been yet to the rooftops

to watch a city come alive, 

to watch it catch my fall 
(again,) 

and place me on a ledge 
(again,)

changing the color of my eyes.  

 

Geneva eyed me from a distance, 

circling ’round, 
splashing its odorless rain 
on bare shins,

mocking the loneliness 

dripping from an umbrella 

held too tight.

 

He'd said, turn right 
from the chestnut stand 
and go straight, 

you can’t miss Eaux-Vive 2000, 

turn that corner

I'll be there.

By 6 pm the corner -stand man

from whom I’d bought 
grilled chestnuts 
warming my heart and hands, 

had folded walls of his smile

washed the pavement 

and gone home.

Turn right …  turn right...

I picked the spot 
where I’d left my mother’s 
farewell; a balcony in Beirut 
where once I hung

from wooden pegs 
on empty clotheslines,
dripping dreams 
on dead roots of geraniums

in flower pots,


across from ghosts gapping 
at wounds on their chests,
across from doves missing  
on TV antennas on rooftops, 
across from all she could not say
but added to jars of sumac, dried mint,

tomato paste she’d cooked herself
and insisted I take with me on the plane.    

I turned... 
I turned and left behind 25 years,
her outworn womb,

her blue eyes wet as the rain 

when she sang for us

Zepouyri Nman, (Like a Breeze) 

knowing nothing of Geneva’s 

bise, nor how to bend that wind at will

between chapped lips. 

 

Rue de Rhone - a beautiful street on Rive Gauche in Geneva.
Rue Mexique -  a street I grew up on, in west Beirut. 
Bise - a cold dry north wind of southern France, Switzerland, and Italy

(Peacock Journal) 

BIOGRAPHY

 

Silva Zanoyan Merjanian is a widely published poet of Armenian descent.  She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to Geneva for a few years during the Lebanese civil war. She later settled in Southern California with her husband and two sons. Her poetry reflects a little of what she took with her from each city she lived in. Her work is featured in anthologies and international poetry journals, such as XXI Century World Literature, San Diego Poetry Annual, upcoming issue of Levure littéraire, Scarlet Leaf Review, Ygdrasil, A journal of Poetic Arts, Peacock Journal, etc.

 

Merjanian was the guest speaker at Celebration of Survival cultural event at Ohio State University on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  Merjanian has two volumes of poetry, Uncoil a Night (2013) and Rumor (Cold River Press, 2015.) Rumor won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Fall 2015 for best poetry book by NABE; she has 3 poems from Rumor nominated for Pushcart Prize. Merjanian donates proceeds from both books and speech compensations to charitable organizations.