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

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Vehanoush Tekian - ARMENIAN CULTURE

In the gaze of a spiteful sun
Two quails rose in a mellow flight,
And the portly village was cuddled
Wrapped in a misty garment;
In the gaze of a wink of an eye
I proceed on my road
To eternity,
Keeping Toros Roslin
To the nubs of tree trunks
I proceed.
I anoint my life next to the feet
Of the saint hung from the gallows
And high on the aroma of thyme,
Passionate, I recite Varoujan!

I come from the diamond land,
Emerald mothers,
Regal fathers,
I know how to jump
Naked from fort to fortress
With incense of wound, song of cymbal.
I’ve tinted my mother’s apron,
She could smell of garlic and milk.
“You are a spoiled
Generation!”
My grandpa was a man of much sadness.
Restless, my grandma, night and day
fashioned shirts
Out of wool,
When she died, on the coffin
Was the shirt woven for me.
Beirut was a warm
City, but
“We were in this cold alien land!”
From the Atlantic
We reached this side
Bellowing freedom,
For heavens’ sake, we busted our souls,
Yet couldn’t be free of the “Odar!”

Hustled and bustled from near and far
Immigrating and emigrating,
In prosperity, in penury,
Grabbing the collars
Of friend, relation,
Educational institution,
Confusion or collision
We got together and scattered,
We protested and were stunned;
It’s a big country, so what?
Our Kochari, our kebab –
Don’t let them dry up!
What good is a fine book?
Pour some wine on it and take off!
And what writer, musician, or
Artist, if they will not –
Faithful to the holy core
Of our history –
Sacrifice or give in,
Shrink, become wacky.
Scholastics-Schmolastics, church,
Blade of Hai Tahd, gate of press
By fire, by sword, by neck,
By meetings overt-covert,
Our great nation
Breathing over eons
Shall survive centuries,
Reaching until…
Until reaching…
See? I forgot the rest!,
Until it reaches…but, is there a path?

Now --If you like -- let us restart:
Cou-ple of qu-ails fu-lew fu-rom the top,
(the ‘f’s start without the ‘u’s).
And if you haven’t seen a quail,
What have you seen? Don’t be denied,
You may well ask, where the heck is it?
It is sunrise, without a quail
Life remains dark!
And if our nutty quail
Had a way to show up,
Why was it hiding
In the history
Of the Green Mountain,
The White Mountain.
The Grandma River,
The cold back of Grandpa Mountain?
Just why
Has it dropped
Its wiggly-waddly chicks here --
not at the river, but the ocean,
not at the shore, but under the heavy paw;
One little quail’s traces lost
The other quail turned into crow,
Half, crow-like, beast
The snout stuck
To the greetings of the chicks,
What’s he up to at the mountaintop…?

If you like,
Let’s restart the story:
Two quails rose in a mellow flight.

Post scriptum:

I looked for and found
The little quail lost without a trace;
I looked for and found it.
At its Amsterdam home,
Watering the flowers.
It opened star-clusters
In a beleaguered land.
In the cold of Armenia,
It stood for bread and hope,
Kept translating ceaselessly
It no longer wrote in Armenian,
Its back to Canada,
It spouted Socrates, Hegel;
Scientist at Harvard,
A linguist from Oxford.
It seized applause and fame
From international podiums;
It was inventor emeritus,
The nameless despondent.
As a famous as architect,
Enjoyed a niche in New York.
It produced images and films
In the streets of Paris.
Did not verbalize in Beirut
Recalling the other quails.
And at the Duomo of Milan,
Outside, sitting on a stone,
It observed the world,
When I approached in great warmth,
“I’m Armenian, just like you.”
It stared at me, vacant-eyed.

I sat down beside and stroked
The broken-backed quail,
It flew away, the wounded quail,
Foreign-winged, mute-spoken,
It flew to another sky.
There were fire-birds here,
And orating crows,
Exotic cranes,
Orphaned swallows,
There were snobbish seagulls,
Self-admiring peacocks,
Many, many woodpeckers,
Countless damn parrots,
There were perceptive owls
And praying cuckoos.

But the quail had departed.
Who had hit it in the back,
The now craw-like quail?
The hole-digging woodpecker?
By now the exhausted eagle?
The cooing cuckoo? The owl of ill omens?
Or the ebbing echo of its suicidal sibling?

What did they want from this little quail?
From its hidden, tiny place,
It extracted light
From dark clouds.
Now there’s a pit where it stood,
The quail has left behind its mountain,
Without the quail the mountain is false.
And what does it do? What does it think?
When with an orphaned wail
I wander around day and night:
“Quail, my soul!
“My quail, my very soul!”

Vehanoush Tekian

Translated by Tatul Sonentz

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