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

Monday, 7 February 2011

Vehanoush Tekian - MY MOTHER

The meager melodies of spring boughs
tap on my mother's window
and the life that carried many futures
now hugs only this bed
of iron   
a bed as supple as an athlete
Blue-clad machines trace
the incense of my mother's heart
and her blood's prayer

In between the traffic rush of nurses and doctors
from morning till night
white doves with white rays flittering     
whisper white things

Sometimes you recover in an instant
then waste lingering hours
thinking about what you really want from life
if not your mother's presence
snug and nestled by the window
the rosebush looks at you
with a stupid gaze

In this giant quivering hospital
the birth of the future ceases   

You don't know whether it will abort
or throw you back into the world
All the human race seems to be on a stretcher
or bearing a stretcher
or leaning on a stretcher

To bear it you return to the slits
of sec ret universes from where peaks of love
and chasms of yearning and scorching chains
of penitence depart brushing against each other
like slippers

Mother Mother Mother Mother  
I repeat mechanically not to lose that word

Her hair smells of winter heat
her gentle breath has fallen on jaundiced city lights

In old days
under the stout Lebanon sun
humming songs of romance she washed
the wool of our beds

The quilt maker dropped by
she watched attentively
lest he left her with a bungled stitch

Needlework must loom like an arch of flowers
through which our childhood passed
"Life is not so warm faultless and easy"
she claimed 
 "but the train must always pass by
without clamor"

(But I made all possible noises
I didn't want the Armenian woman's derailed train
to pass as a normal case)

Mother didn't have an opulent foliage of speech
her words were seed of life linked to philanthropy
to being " useful children to God and our nation"

She was heedful and eternally patient

Now the pillow is hard   
she doesn't demand another
she'll freeze under that sheet   
she wants no other
without a home   
crochet bores her
white arms surrendered to plastic tubes
she sleeps

With those naked arms
from a big bowl she gave us yoghurt
by the spoonful with bits of bread
on summer nights having gathered her five chicks
(she called us chicks although we made all kinds of
unchickenlike noises and since she's our mother  
in her eyes we always
remained teeny weeny chicks)

"A spoonful for you   
and a spoonful for you
get over here   
you're running around too much
yoghurt is good for the bones"

Below in the Arabic cafe Frank Sinatra sang
"Strangers in the Night"
or Wadih Safi lamented his broken heart
Our village was no Baabdad to push Armenian songs
Instead of bamboo shoots there were wicker chairs
near the stream that divided the cafe
where I read Charents  
"You'll destroy your eyes at an early age" she said
I used to bring raw liver from the butcher
near the only church
she fried it with lots of onion and cumin
and at that moment in the big village
our little house jumped for joy

I grew so easily with my mother's truth
Through my father's many shades
and our numerous needs
she went on sowing light in clusters
Raven-dark hair
emerald eyes on snow-white radiant face
Your mother is a beauty they said   I rejoiced
She paid no heed -- specially after being born again
The more she clung to God's truth
the more I held on to life's mystery
She became an island of peace  
I stormed like the wind

My memory is littered in heaps
with the springtime mothball smell of our house
the baked Kata of winter
the summer packing ready for the resort
the autumn list of textbooks
in her hands
and most of all the cream of her warm words
is everywhere   
with bubbles of sweetness and anger
haunting the night
in the frightening animation of hurried footsteps
and suppressed sighs grows the terror
of seeing this bed empty tomorrow
as she had found my father's bed empty
when she had gone to hospital to bring him home
Later she missed my father a lot
we could feel her thinking of him
Now all depends on the whim of one tenuous vein
will blood reach her heart or not?
"God plans our lives -- all things come to an end"

The enormous city rotates its hand to morning
I flee and take refuge
where the cock crowed at twilight
where stars were toys and
toy elephants were breathing creatures
Life evolved in the washroom of routine
with its multicolor clothes
It started with Matin
and ended with father's homecoming
a love that skipped the stations of logic
conquered banishment   poverty   sickness
Now plucked from the soothing waves of her birthplace
she lies on this bed
"in some distant corner of America"
Surgeons specialists mill around
they check the temperature   
draw blood
administer a variety of medications
and standing in for my father
the blue-clad machine watches over her

She should at least open her eyes
unleash her gentle laugh
spoon feed me the yoghurt of wisdom
and not push down my throat
the image of her coffin
where I burn away down to the bone
drop by drop her minutes barely extend life
and the vapor of an orphan drips from the mute forehead of a giant
Surely I wouldn't be so terrified
if they hadn't told me
that they would take her heart
out of her body
that they would cut her veins
put in a pig's heart
God bless and save all the planet's piglets!

Were it not for my mother I wouldn't fear
for my life Our lives ounce up and down inside her weary heart
you who passed through our nights
spreading rays of the Milky-way
save us from this night too!

Tears in its eyes   
the rosebush
watches those emerald eyes almost lose their green
Early in the morning they'll take her to surgery
I know she is not asleep    
with words of milk and honey
her fierce mystical faith
begs for her God's mercy
to remain in her children's charge

The time for the ultimate submission arrives
facing this breach   
when pain turns to spirit
and the moment to supplication
and trampling the agony of hopelessness
I too pray that mother reaches us
through the dawn with luminous devotion
and rose-petal soft steps

Vehanoush Tekian
Translated by Tatul Sonentz

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful Stanzas specially the last lines..
    "words of milk and honey...."etc
    If I read the poem in Armenian...
    I love to create rhymes...
    Translating poems are not an easy work...
    I wrote many times...
    "Every language has a soul...
    Can you translate that soul...!!!"