The Last Door

Tatev Monastery on the road to Artsakh, May 2019 (Photo provided by the author)

Dwelling at the sword’s edge of uncertainty,
Haunted remnants of fears fall away from me,
Turn back into the highland clay formed
Long before being remade by our գոյամարտ.

Howling at the grey wolves prowling madder,
Inside, imperial lies fall silent,
Hammered hate goes unrequited,
Echoing the pulse of eleven million դհոլներ.

Look into our determined Armenian eyes,
Hear into the heart of our Beloved Mothers’ cries,
And all becomes clear as stone.
Fair-weather friendships never fail
Shortsightedly to set sail
At the first hint of troubled waters,
Be it one month
Or a hundred years ago.
Who can still dream of being immune
To humanity colonially out of tune
With life itself?

Phosphor fires rain down from the sky,
Burning Artsakh forests born to thrive.
Native groves uprooted, clamoring,
Stand tall and unwavering in the call
For truth and self-determination.
Alone and not alone, adorned with living histories
We cannot—will not—deny,
Our nightmares play out again, this very hour.
Strengthened by birdsong and mountains on high,
We cannot—will not—cower.

Dear World,
Whether ’tis nobler to disrupt this madness
Or enact inaction, that is the question?
While lives are bread for wolfish profit,
False neutralities are cold comfort
To children raised underground,
Now loosed into unneighborly machinations.

Breathing into the heart’s bleeding edge of sorrow,
Behind the last door, there awaits hope for tomorrow.
There, a hidden bow quivers with promise of sun and moonlight.
Circle-dancing at the threshold, our silver throughline shines bright.
Tenderly, the arrow coaxes the archer to rise, whispering
“Together, let us aim ever farther, ever higher, ever wise.”

Author’s Note:  Visit Art for Artsakh to browse works from a growing interdisciplinary and global community of artists, including myself, who are donating all proceeds from sales to the Armenia Fund, supporting humanitarian aid for the people of Artsakh.

Regarding the two Armenian words in this poem, գոյամարտ means “fight or struggle for survival,” and the դհոլ (plural, դհոլներ) is a type of drum played in Armenian folk music.

Elise Youssoufian

Elise Youssoufian

A lifelong learner with a world-shaped heart, Elise Youssoufian is a US-born, Yerevan-based poet, artist, scholar and therapeutic musician committed to personal, ancestral and collective healing and liberation.
Elise Youssoufian

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