What is left, then, but to listen?

Every day, I come a little bit closer
To the homescapes of our mother tongue,
Inviting me into gardens of grief
Made bright, deathless flower of the Word
Growing from a new grave, voice unearthed,

Heightened with passion for our sacred worth.
Revolving cycles of sorrow leave me
Stricken with scant hope for tomorrow, ’til
The last door opens a crack, mountain air
Howling past beheadings and khachkars scattered.

On my knees, in the depths of devastation,
I pray to speak only with ancestral illumination,
Every syllable reshaping my heart and mind,
Bearing tones of memory and of liberation.
Կամաց կամաց մեր լեզուն կ՚ըլլամ։

Yesterday, I heard a woman’s stories
Of being unsafe in her family’s shelter,
Mother-in-law’s light dimmed, displaced
By the same aches I felt even before
I drew my first breath…

Today, I’m collapsing under waves of the present,
Overcome by cries for partner, child, parent…
“Missing…earless…rotting,” our dignity undone.
For a spell, I burn to curse being human born,
But I will myself to stay open.  I see you

Long-refusing to succumb, wrestling demons
Old and new through your self-determination.
Oft lost in mazes of destruction, I seek
Brave passage through living reclamation.
Your courage restores the word of the flower,

Coaxing the little bird beneath my breast
To sing again, come the next golden hour.
Lodged in my throat:  Am I up to the test?
I long to ask you questions I cannot yet write.
Instead, pen and hand allow another quiet fight.

Author’s Note: Dedicated to a fellow poet and all my teachers, with much gratitude for their instrumental labor and inspiration in this time of profound mourning and mobilization. As the Zapatistas say, “No morirá la flor de la palabra” (the flower of the word will not die). May each breath seed justice, truth and beauty in every language.

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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