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A GAY GANGSTERS' LIFE

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Silva Merjanian

        WOMEN IN THE GLASS    

Cold glass, how you insert yourself

Between myself and myself

There was the night curled asleep 
on the city's chest

while spring rain meandered in an iris
mute, weightless, trance

 

how could you have noticed in such quiet  

women standing in the distance
eyes weltering in red taillights

waiting for the right moment to pounce 

 

now sunrise demands their names 

you must dig them from graves 

sift through their remains 

pick a resemblance to yourself

like one would stones in a pile of lentil

they should have known about razor sharp words
your tongue spills in the dark these days 

they should have tiptoed around your pen 
the way the moon does at that hour 

 ____________________________________________________

Allahu Akbar 

My father’s Allahu Akbar billowed 
from his lips like a blessing
vowels lingered on his tongue 
pulling hope out with his voice

Allahu Akbar resonated on walls 
molting prayers yellowed in fading 
light of Beirut’s dying sun

on Sundays, it was lyrics to church bells 
from across the street as his Old Spice 
carried it room to room.  

my father would say Allahu Akbar

before a meal, after a meal 

the magic words that would start the car

move his feet up the stairs to the fifth floor

Allahu Akbar for the souls of the dead 
and wounded in our neighborhood 
Allahu Akbar settled fear like dust on the ground

we had so much time back then 
when teenage fingertips would carve my breath 
ya Allah...a heart... ya Allah... a boy’s name...a heart... 
Allah...a glass portal for a way out from afternoons 
that stretched thin on a smoking skyline

when my father’s Allah forgot 
to set the sun  
to let the city bring the Jasmine scent inside

to let dusk be a prayer that won’t rust

 when he could not say Allahu Akbar in America   

(not in crowded malls or airports,) 
he had Asdvadz meds eh in Armenian that made 
sense of his days

a Christian, he could not inhale without exhaling
God’s greatness

his Allahu Akbar was life

his was light and love

back then
when we had so much time

when fingertips carved Allah on my breath

when Beirut burned my palms and I still 
held on to it's ailing sun 

with rattle of dice on a backgammon board 

cutting through silence of the graveyard
I hear him from six feet under sigh Allahu Akbar

I swear he hears me, as I look faith’s many faces 
in the eye these days, see the blood on its multiple 
hands and ask, where do we go, where do we go

not to converge in a dream
his voice echoes in four walls of a wooden box

Asdvadz voghormee, Asdvadz voghormee

Allahu Akbar -  God is the greatest in Arabic
Asdvadz meds eh - God is great in Armenian

Asdvadz voghormee – 

God have mercy in Armenian 

_______________________

About the Poem

Allahu Akbar - means God is greater in Arabic. Unfortunately it is associated with terrorism nowadays as we hear it called out right before acts of violence. However, I grew up hearing this phrase in a totally different context.  It is very common for non-Muslims to use it in everyday language as did my father. The way we say "God willing " for instance. This poem is a reflection of what it used to mean for me and how that has changed, when  beliefs strangle faith. 

 

Multilingual - I wrote Multilingual after I read an article, Bad Language: Why Being Bilingual Makes Swearing Easier, by Wilhelmiina Toivo (The Guardian, Monday 27 March 2017 06.07 EDT)  “Feeling less emotionally connected to your second language might make it easier to use highly emotional vocabulary”,  “The scientific term for this is reduced emotional resonance of language”. This explained so well why I don't write in Armenian.  

https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/mar/27/bad-language-why-being-bilingual-makes-swearing-easier


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.