Breaking down cultural barriers
Transposer une culture dans une autre par delà les barrières culturelles

Friday, 19 March 2010

Tatul Sonentz - BIRDS

Long ago,
there was a bird
in a cage, hanging
in our kitchen window.
A bright yellow bird that
only sang for my mother.
She called it ‘Sokhak’
(that is ‘nightingale’
in Armenian.)

As a child of ten,
every other Sunday,
I went to the zoo in Giza,
west of Cairo, with my dad
the photographer, to take
pictures of the birds
in the vast aviary.

There, chained to
its perch, stood proud
a tall parrot with feathers
in dazzling colors like
a rainbow following
spring showers.

As dad shot one
frame after the other
the bird rattled its chain
and squawked ‘Uhuru’,
“That’s ‘liberty’ in
Swahili,” uttered
my father…

On the sign
pinned to the perch
it read “Ara; a macaw,
native of Central America.
Captured in the Sudan”
Ara… with its red,
blue, orange

I thought of
Ara the Beautiful,
prince of the Armens
for whose love lustful
Semiramis sent her armies
to Hayastan (‘Armenia’
in Armenian.)

A decade later,
at my grandmother’s
funeral in the small chapel
of the Mar Mina cemetery in
Old Cairo, as the priest
chanted a requiem
for her soul,
a swarm
of swallows
flew in through
the open windows
frolicking all around
the coffin for a full
minute and flew
out… I believe
her soul to
that far-away
homeland where
their old nests and
her favorite mulberry
tree in her father’s
orchard waited
for them.

Tatul Sonentz

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