The wrinkled shirt over the shoulders of the chair
Rests in a blue heaven of blankness
The crumpled pants in the corner
Unworn now over a week
Are stained at the knees

The child wanders with a silence for words
In the tall forest of houses
And 5 o’clock traffic
Tears seem useless, and only the woodpecker,
Wings tucked around a golden red body
Strokes and digs with vigor against the tree

Grandfather the wind stings my eyes
The child in my body ages toward you
I size my shirt to my own shoulders
My frame tightens and the pocket
Beats hard with blood

What dream is in your coma?
Do you speak with God
That your voice is so still
That your fingers twitch with nightmare

During the early morning
Before dawn colors the darkness
And barefoot monks kneel on stone for prayer

I walk the dirt avenue
The universe of the field stiffens

Out of the cold
Your face in the circle of sun



To Harry and Vera

Last night’s rain
pushes into snow
and north to New Hampshire
at the door
of the Armenian Church
children circle
in cold breaths of laughter

Vera’s soft steps
ballet through the kitchen
since 6
with the sun’s eye
Vera is earth
creating fruits and blooms
wisdoms for the family
her heart ia an open fire
in a desert of snow

I listen to Harry,
called Boz, her husband
click the needle of the phono
with the music of America
the voice of the oud
is the color of Harry’s eyes
his soul is the spirit
that wakes dream from nightmare
with a smile
and a will to make
each day
the 1st day
of your life

Waking on Spring Street
In Whitinsville
I rise
In a tango

Of Harry and Vera



To Louise Mantashigian

Into the boiled cabbage leaf
she feeds rice, onions,
garlic, lamb,
humming a folk song
her father sang
to her on the banks
of the Euphrates
a century ago

When she pounds
the wet dough for bread
her mother’s dark eyes
appear in the shadows
her fists make
the wings of doves
lift and disappear

60 years
she bites her tongue with no tears
and quiets her heart
from that moment
when the Turk split
her mother in two pieces
Der Voghormia
watching the doves
lift her heart
toward heaven
Der Voghormia
Der Voghormia

Louise listens for the shoes
of her grandchildren, who climb
her stairs in America,
growing with each step,
she recognizes each foot
with clarity and name
and knows that each
will sit freely beside her
and listen to songs and stories
of a far away land



There is a quiet growing
In that lowland
the dark shadow of the Sierras
purple in summer
and the coast violet in winter

That growing root
would anchor to
nothing rich on top
the hardpan of language
to break the surface
and continue
a door of misspelled words
and no punctuation
a child of revolution

A child of plants
the hands of working people
the eyes that sit with no one



Across an ocean of white sheets
night moves in
with its kitchen of neon
The city settles
with a hum of moth wings
and curtains drawn
against a wind of schedules
a table of unopened letters
Fear is an empty chair
that has lost its voice
Mice hold their breaths and listen
for the wilderness to speak

I study all the exits
within me leaving no memory
but to bare my teeth
Night moves into dawn
from the moans of bedsprings
scattering omens like confetti
from rooftops

until there is nothing visible to see



Up past
the first fields
of dead grass
the slow rise of hills
opening green,
shifting winds, crossing animals
risking blank turns

Up past
the closed houses
blinking whites and blues
Up past the flatness
of late summer
we meet—
his short arms
opened into flight

He whispers
and in that moment
grabs my hand and leads
me back
back from the first front of trees

into everything growing



In repose they bend like grass
to teach in blurred voices,
how to summons the stars
from the dark rings of my eyes,
or quilt the earth with seeds
and feet of clay.

I smell the fragrance
of Ararat
on their breaths, composed
of words
that would make paper burn.



I live under a spell.
catching flies
with a charmed tongue
at the bottom of a water well.
Living below a water lily is heavenly,
but I choose this pond’s earthy surface
to grow weary in my green leper’s skin,
dreaming of a gentler flesh.

I succumb to what is hidden,
inventing darkness in the blink of an eye.
My humped appearance
remains unbroken, bewitched
with a cold blooded passion for love.
I bask alone,
while sunlight shuffles
patterns of light,
hushing the gossip of mosquitoes.

Where flowers shed their fragrance,
I purse a smile
from eye to eye
and rise early in the morning
without moving the shape of water.
but I am hard,
examine my edges,
the beast kicking within me,
that would turn these veins
of darkness
with a woman’s kiss

into the flesh of a man.



His mother beats stone
Over raw corn,
Pounds and shapes with water
A carpet of maize for Sunday’s visit. I’ve seen
Her careful hair and perfect hands
Turn prehistoric behind those bones
The way a butterfly steps out of the shell
Sand falls from her palm
And passes one day into another.
Her voice sings in a with a gentle madness
The stories that fall down around her;
Inside, Eddy throbs, looking for a way out.
Dark eyes point his fortune North
Beyond the river where smoky cities frail
Under an afternoon sun,
High on slushier to a place
Where she must learn to keep,
What everyone leaves behind

At the border she sadness with silence,
Gathering last straws of memory
From the pockets of her eyes.
She waits in the shadows like a question mark.
When she answers, two teeth bite down
On a clothesline of dead children
Strung through a backyard of fences
From Guadalajara to east L. A.
—a jungle of concrete and glass.
Luck finds its own fortunes,
She knows this, expecting to miracle to arrive n the wings of angels.
Dawn sparkles from the East; the Sierra’s would rather sleep.
Eddy waterfalls into America
On the table of a flat bed truck, in front of a “Flying A”
On promises written in sand on a pathway of empty eyes
To “Hall’s Diner and Gas Stop”–
Eddy whispers among the heads of cabbage:

“Nightmares, Man.



Conversation slams a door,
listening to the afternoon
decompose into a shadow
under the glass faced table.
All vital signs thin
into a red thread
pulled between our teeth.
We breathe silence into weather,
making it impossible to hang on.

And without a cry, our skins
emerge from an undergrowth
of syllables, fleeing with the moon
toward the Great Highway
to the heart with no hesitation.

Our love is no longer secret,
sinking into a wilderness
of darkened windows.
Morning enters
and I find you suspended
like an echo
between the fingertips
of the wind

followed by no one.


The Butterfly

The moment slows, I see the butterfly
Clasp wings in a faint orange black flight
Hands still
Fingers point and settle
On the dust of two wings

After the catch, unbuckling
Watching the intelligence
Turn and budge from right to left
I let the butterfly go

The conversation went hours
Finally at last the hand
Met the nods and eyes
The veins grabbed
Again at flight

I caught the Ace of Hearts
The Jack of Diamonds
And lesser cards

I fasted and met each gamble
The stone got colder
Toward morning
I let the butterfly go