Poem: Zarian: Paris

Night has set flowers on fire.

Darkness falls and knocks on doors
Banging its wings against the lights
Utters a word most horrid
And moves, harried,
Down to where the Metro is
And, restless, drags itself around
The innards of the metropolis.

My hands are on fire. The hours are scorched.
Over the rooftops
Infinity has raised a torch
And speaks to the stars.

Tonight, cats with luminous paws
Scratch the skies
And mewing at the unknown
Look for a gravesite
Of love.
Darkness arrives at the street corner,
Grabs my coat-button and says to me:
Wait, friend, let me give you the last word,
The bus is chasing infinity,
The raised fists of millions
Are threatening space.
Divinity’s arm is broken.
The market’s gone crazy.

I’m inside “Jockey’s”—Kiki’s dancing.
In Montparnasse,
The tango
Spreading the sound of sorrow,
Has smashed a mirror
In the black man’s eyes –
And the jazzband blares.

Outside, it’s freezing.
Vacant-gazed, a sandwich-man
Hands out fliers
Inviting all to the “House of the King
He may be an angel in hiding.

From the Eiffel
The wireless speaks to the world.
It calls Ceylon, Congo, India.
The winds are enraged, Vesuvius is on fire.
The dollar is down.
A woman, desperate, has fallen in the Seine.

Death, in a taxi, goes to Les Halles.
The West is dying.
An apocalypse in luminous letters
Announces prices in the stores.
A messiah is born in India;
The apostles are on their way,
The magi have departed;
The guiding star lies in a morgue.
Students of the faculty of medicine
Will cut into the mystery,
Examine its intestines
And look for divinity.

And everything is a clarion.
The posters sit up, pleading,
Mowing eyes
With the scythe of illusion.
Escaped, a lion
Prowls along a wall, howls in the gloom –
Comes on to the boot-black darkness.

I’m going, I’m going!
With me comes a whore in mourning
Spinning with restless hands
A searing sorrow.
A poster, removing its hat, salutes,
And with its sick nightingale’s trill,
Offers a very cheap thrill.
Let’s go, let’s go…

I’ve come to Montmartre.
The lights have slaughtered the night.
The “kingdom” has opened its doors
And “hell” calls us in.
Along with the globe,
A red windmill turns,
Grain falls from the stars.
Bread is offered to hungry hearts.

The Milky Way has eloped with a hoofer.
The sky sways to a saber dance
And a Caucasian cherub
Spreads his wings of light
On his way to the stars.

They’ve set tangy wines on a coffin,
Murmuring a dirge.
An angel, drunk, is down in the dirt,
While Mistinguette,
Flaunting her gams,
Sings a ditty.

The Pope is on the pulpit.
They have crucified a naked woman
And the devil has murdered the world
With a cardboard sword.

How can I tell?
Is it dream? Illusion?
Or is it the last Missa Solemnis
Of age-old mysteries?

The night has set the flowers on fire.

My heart, riding a cab
Rushes like a madman
From dream to nightmare,
While I
Stand there, hopeless
Like a lonesome obelisk,
Like a stone chimera
On top of a half-ruined chapel.

At dawn,
The gas-light man
Reaped
The night flowers
And Paris stood by Les Halles
And ripped a bloody stomach.

———————– Gosdan Zarian, 1926

Translated by Tatul Sonentz

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Tatul Sonentz-Papazian

Tatul Sonentz-Papazian is the former editor of the Armenian Review and director of the ARF and First Republic of Armenia Archives, based in Watertown, Mass. He has been a contributor to the Armenian Weekly for over 50 years. He currently directs the Publications Department of the Armenian Relief Society.
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1 Comment


  1. I do congratulate every writer
    Who has hidden soulful power to translate

    Who is able to enter
    The poet’s ‘Each Ignited Cell’

    Able to hear
    His musical rhymes…

    Able to cry with his Pain… yev,and 
    Clear his stagnated ‘Bleeding-tears’

    While he is away…somewhere…
    Still weeping…

    Tatul…Zarian wished to be with you!
    To read your translation 
    And thanked you!

    My Congratulations Sonentz
    For your translation sense
    That…not every poet
    Likely to possess.


    Sylva Portoian, MD

    February 27,2011

    Written instantly

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