Flowers of the Word (for Hrant)

Խօսքին Ծաղիկները (Հրանդին համար)

“Still Growing” (an Armenian needle lace project, April 2020)

You arrived in my life again, planted in the furrow,
A mighty seedling of sight, of memory, of shadow,
Easter opening soft as the sun, recollected,
Սրտիս նոր ծաղիկները budding with love of fire,
Fortitude and intellect, resurrected.

No longer a stranger to indigeneity,
Accompanied by those long radiating bravery,
I walked small with grief-displacing wonder
Into another world you’re still seeding, together,
Each step a little death of fear, in good measure.

Senses kneeling at the living stories outpouring
From every niche, I grasped old TVs and
New slips of paper aflame with the songs
Of a poet endangered. Quiet tears ebbed
And flowed at the shores of tales, questions, cages.

Hopes and humiliations ringing in my ears,
I spun down the hall half-blindly, turning right
Into walls coming alive in pictures, penned
Behind bars and counting the days…
Walking the streets, and counting the days…

I turned again, transfixed and whirling,
Caught in the mad dance of truth and reconciling,
Your light transmuting into hands unseen,
Reaching out through page and screen to break
Unbecoming chains of denial and dis-memberment.

The unsettled theft of your breath still cuts to the quick,
Your disquiet a lesson in being the body politic.
Daughter of orphans wounded, surviving kismet abloom,
I come as one and stand as many, tugging at the roots askew.
Անվերջ, your voice dovetails գոյամարտին կեանքը anew.


Author’s Note: When I accepted an invitation to participate in Tuesday’s virtual memorial for Hrant Dink organized by Nor Zartonk, the joy of the struggle flourished anew. Back in 2019 in Istanbul, I experienced unrelentingly profound moments of serendipity, synchronicity and connection—some happy, some painful—rooted in healing, justice and transformation. Though governmental, social and environmental instabilities in the US and worldwide do not surprise me, I did not foresee COVID-19, the global movement for Black lives or the Artsakh War, and their ripples. Or, that on this day, for the first time in these 14 years since Hrant Dink’s assassination, I would feel the distance between me and Istanbul collapse, as I followed the longings in my heart, with the blessing of Zoravik (“In Solidarity”) Armenian Activist Collective.

My paternal grandmother was born in Bolis in 1916. Though knowing her was not available to me and in life she battled severe depression, I felt her radiant presence today, as I listened to people’s stories of Hrant Dink’s living body of work, of his assassination and of carrying forward dreams of another world…together. I felt my maternal grandmother Elise with me, though she died from cancer in her 30s, when my mother was still a child in Beirut. Today, I felt the necessity of giving voice coursing through my veins, as I read this new poem written to Hrant Dink, while holding in my heart his family and comrades, and all who walk bravely. I also noted that the 14th anniversary of his assassination falls on the day after the holiday commemorating the birth of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the day before a unique presidential inauguration. Meanwhile, the work of co-creating a peaceful and just world marches on.

“Flowers of the Word” is inspired by an Eastertime visit to the 23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory. Fourteen years ago, when I learned he was killed, and for some years after, I was frozen, devastated, afraid. Far away and yet so close, as a diasporan, I didn’t know what to do, how to move forward. Year after year, I would hear and join the cries of the people. I would feel some hope but would see no justice. Yet, Hrant Dink’s voice and the “unbearable appeal of the struggle” came back to life for me that Easter week, and again, today, like a նոր ծաղիկ պայծառ ցուցաւ նոր գերեզմանէն։

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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