Category: Civil Rights

Armenian Genocide, a poem by David Garyan published in Interlitq

This poem previously appeared in Volume 7 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2019).

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 


Daniel, this holocaust is for you.
Let me burn your blank pages,
soak the ashes in history’s blood—
just to darken it.
What’s your shade of red?
Do you know its price?
Your rubies aren’t ruby enough.
The government gods
want more holocausts—
just to be appeased.
Let your books go to the fire,
along with all Armenian bodies—
is that enough works cited?
Maybe then regimes
would say “genocide,”
and Turkey could apologize—
at last … no one’s left
to demand redress,
or even an apology.
This is the only holocaust I can offer;
it’s mine and it’s not mine.

I would throw our legends
into Ծիծեռնակաբերդ—
I would set all our churches on fire,
spoil our monuments
in the blaze as a holocaust,
just to bring everyone back.
What have we done to anger the gods?
What have we done to deserve this?
And yet all will be well.
People and land are gone,
but we stood at Sardarabad.
We’re still here.
Let me tell you about those
who were with you—
some had no country then;
Slovakia and the Czech Republic
are less than 30 years old,
and they haven’t forgotten.
I’m now 31, the age when you died,
and death doesn’t scare me yet,
but when your captors raised knives,
you heard hope—
it was escaping like hummingbirds
in your lungs trying to pierce their way out.
How did you steal enough air
to express your torture,
much less breathe?
Uruguay first heard your cries,
then Cyprus, Argentina, Russia,
Greece, Canada, Lebanon, Belgium, France,
Italy, Vatican City, Switzerland, the Netherlands,
Poland, Lithuania, Germany, Venezuela,
Chile, Sweden, Bolivia, Austria, Brazil,
Syria, Paraguay, Luxembourg, Bulgaria,
and, of course, Armenia
never stopped listening.
More people will hear you.
More people will come.
Raphael Lemkin took the last breath
of each victim to beget
the term “genocide.”
This word used to be our word,
and, sadly, it no longer is;
others have died to breathe life
into this name and I wish
things were different.
The world is less innocent
with “genocide” in it.
Everyone can hear
your last breath,
but many fear repeating
what they heard:

“Genocide.”

Your final gasp is my holocaust.
Forgive me. My paper is just paper,
but this ink will reach
your grave.
Tell me—is revenge
a good thing if it feels good?
Those behind our suffering
were sentenced to death,
but they all escaped justice.
We put down
the main architects
of our plight,
and Europe’s courts
have absolved us,
but even European courts
can’t make God preside over them—
I ask that you pray
for our race when we praise
the revenge of our brothers.
Like wind scattering a torn book,
the genocide has strewn
survivors across the world.
Much of the pain
can no longer be felt,
only understood—
time has lulled
the red ink to black.
I won’t let
years and statistics
keep your blood from drying.
I won’t let wise ears
of old history
go deaf to your cries.
The poet isn’t the historian of facts.
You’re the archivist
of laughter and tears.
Inside your pen were voices
from near and distant futures.
The bard is a chronicler,
but he has hemophilia;
those who injure him
incur torment—
they must endure
the endless howls of his ink;
to kill poets is to kill one’s self—
read lines enter
the murderer’s nation
and speak to the soil—
forcing honest crops to grow there.
Denial—prisons without walls or guards
surrounded by minefields.
Denial—truth that wears gloves
when handling ethics.
Denial—hospitals that only
admit healthy people.
Denial—palm trees of regret
planted deep in the desert—
no one can reach
their dates of apology.
Denial marks moveable
feasts on calendars without numbers.
Denial blindfolds justice—
just to let killers escape.
Denial hangs a noose
in cells of the innocent.
Denial arrests the blameless,
severs their tongue and hands,
then says: “All are free to acquit
themselves of stealing and slander.”
Still, the pens we left
were picked up,
carried by righteous palms,
which saved the books
of our history;
foreign tongues tasted the lies
and stopped them like circles
trapped in a circle.
Daniel, your name
has erased the word “denial”
from the Murder Dictionary;
its authors now trudge deserts
of reason to hide from your face;
they have no ink to quench
their lexicons of shame.
The culprit lies,
claiming Armenians
were the enemy.
Have you seen such enemies
die without weapons?

The sinner boasts, claiming Armenians
were dangerous—the desert marches
served as brief transfers.
Did you know people
must be raped and starved
on long walks to a new home?

The crook twists, claiming Armenians
were the real killers.
Have you seen genocide
memorials in foreign countries
honoring murderers?



The conniver acts, claiming Armenians
and Turks were killing each other.
Have you seen a more one-sided defeat?
Can unarmed armies
lose wars this badly?

The thief hides, claiming Armenians
were better off,
and this led to jealousy.
Could it be true?
Maybe diplomas and wealth
are cause for genocide:

“The Armenians were better educated and wealthier than most Turks and because of that were envied and hated, so much so that the government instituted a program of ethnic cleansing. The Turks had had practice runs before. Between 1894 and 1896, 200,000 Armenians were massacred by soldiers and armed mobs.”
The Australian, “Geoffrey Robertson puts the case against Turkey for 1915 Armenian genocide” (2015)

Those are the accusations.
Forgive me once more.
I shouldn’t have refuted
claims that don’t deserve
our ink, or even attention,
but like revenge—
what can be wrong
often feels good.
Still, as victims,
we can’t take our red
bed sheets and pillows—
forcing the innocent
to sleep on them;
they need peace
as much as we do.
We can’t forget
the righteous;
only denial and murder
makes one a menace—
not birth alone.
Your life was a garden
where bodies were buried.
Your death is a graveyard
where strangers
leave the dead flowers.
I tried taking your tears
off this page by holding
the paper up to the sun,
but the words never dried.
Never mind.
I’ll stop writing this poem
when your life gives me one
metaphor for happiness.
You haven’t left us—
we’re archaeologists of echoes.
The desert’s breath
still speaks your name.
How can I find truth
in archives and books—
their voice is distorted
by those who keep them?
Even the white gloves
I must wear can’t silence
the racket of cities.
The poet’s truth sounds true
at first sound.
I ask you again:
What price is your red shade?
Is it higher on earth than in heaven?
They want too much for it here.
They need to measure
the pH of your blood—
perhaps it was too acidic.
They’d like to research
how far you walked
to your death—
if you didn’t walk at all,
or only very little,
you should be thankful
for the killer’s kindness.
They want to debate—
were you given
something to eat
on your death march?
Even crumbs
from a guilty hand can wipe
the blood away from its history.
They crave to count
the bodies again—
the death toll was inflated,
and statistics are very important:
One, two, three,
four, five, six, seven,
eight, nine, ten, eleven,
twelve, thirteen, fourteen,
fifteen, sixteen, seventeen,
eighteen, nineteen, twenty,
21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27,
28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34,
XXXV, XXXVI, XXXVII,
XXXVIII, XXXIX, XL,
XLI, XLII, XLIII, XLIV,
XLV, XLVI, XLVII, XLVIII …
if less than a million died,
this woman becomes a doctor
of history and data.

Those who deny,
kill the victims’ memories—
they inherit the crimes
of their ancestors.
Rest here, friend; the worst is over.
Science says you can’t
breathe underwater;
it says most lungs
can stop textbook drowning
for a minute or so;
after that the brain
turns to “D” in its wordbook—
it goes down
the terms until its own
inventions can’t rescue you.
But how is that true?
Victims can breathe
under innocent blood.

How else can God keep
a race from perishing?
Why else have history’s
sluggish eyes
never witnessed
a final genocide?
Its pages are honest,
but they can only be honest
with what they’ve seen.
Geschichte is a guest who must describe
a party where thousands
have gathered—without the time
to shake everyone’s hand.
The tongues of foreign pens
tasted our blood
and spoke the word “genocide.”
The fingers of foreign brushes
forced guilt to open its fist.
The hands of foreign lenses
led eyes to the bodies
and made them discover;
yet history had no time
to meet everyone.
Too many songs
have been orphaned in the wind’s ears.
Too much laughter has been shelved
in the library without windows.
Too much anger has traveled
inside the unaddressed envelope.
Too much hope glows
in the stained glass of lost churches.
Poets can speak the wind’s alphabet;
they can pound on doors
of libraries without windows;
they can take blank envelopes
and address them to the fire;
they can bring light
to dark mornings,
but even we can’t make
old days see a new past.
We can only wonder:
How long could history
keep its eyes open
if it had to face
each dead child,
each raped woman?
We can only fathom:
When would the objective
voice of its pages
start shaking
if it had to find every body—
just to count it?
We can only picture:
Might its cold arms
finally give up
if sources had to lead
all corpses back
to their homes?
We can only imagine:
How much blood can it stomach
before the archives throw up
truth in disgust?

Again I ask:
How much for a bard’s blood?
History is the past’s shepherd,
but its flock has become too large—
it can no longer see till the end.
There’s not enough time
to notice small losses.
Poetry is the future’s steward,
yet it’s losing the fight against time;
it wants to save all lives,
but there’s not enough paper
to hide victims under blankets of verse.
You had no time to wait for art.
When they dragged
you to the forest,
you scratched
your lines of death on the bark—
all with bloody fingernails,
until you had no biology
left to write with.
The memories of trees
live the longest.
Even if their life is cut short,
some can sprout
new stems from their roots.
The history of blood
doesn’t exist in libraries;
the ashes of wisdom
we’ve planted in our archives
can’t absorb buried voices
and carry them to the leaves—
their roots
aren’t placed in the ground.
The history of blood
doesn’t have dates—
just the symbol for infinity.
Cruelty’s extent lies
in the number of prisons,
and how we treat women,
but that’s all false.
To measure
the volume of gore,
see how many new words
we need to define massacres:
pogrom, genocide, the Holocaust.
What’s next?
Can I be wrong about infinity?
Let “Holocaust” be the last
term for plight.
What’s the difference
between one death and ten million?
Tell me, Daniel.
History opens its eyes,
weighing loss with a scale;
poetry closes its eyes,
measuring with the heart.
The Library of Genocide
is built out of mirrors;
when the past enters,
it sees its reflection,
but the Library never tells
the biographer of blood
that all mirrors are two-way—
that bards are looking
in from the outside.
Only poets can interrogate history—
only poets can bring it to trial.
Their eyes are two flashes
of lightning striking a forest at night.
Their testimony is evidence
gathered by saints.
Your son was born
on the day of your death—
a welcome blessing,
but even the bard’s
house of language
doesn’t have space
to lodge these guests together.
Your wife wasn’t afraid
to name him “Haig,”
even when the tongue
of the killer’s blade
was after Armenian flesh.
The living can’t understand
the word “genocide.”
Only victims who spilled
their lives on page “G”
of the Blood Dictionary
know the true meaning—
this is a torment your offspring
weren’t forced to endure.
Poets know where
they must dig to build wells
that will raise tears
from the ground,
but they’d rather be asked
to do harder things—
speak with the frankness
of children who are good
storytellers, but poor liars.
All kids
know what blood is,
even if they can’t say
it has an average pH of 7.40
and holds 4.2 to 6.1 million erythrocytes.
All kids
can recognize the guise of genocide,
even if it wears the friendly face
of a low number.

Bards lie—
but only like youngsters;
they steal truth from the blood jar,
but never clean their mouths.
They guide archaeologists
to buried graveyards—
no pen stops digging
when hands are cut off.
Yet, we’d rather be asked
to do harder things,
like visit decency’s drying cement
and write “forgiveness”—
before it’s too late.
If we demand with axes,
the tree of denial won’t yield
apology’s ripe fruits—
we must save the roots
after picking the red grapes.
We’re geographers who’ve lost
our homes—the land
we must study
no longer bears our names,
but even this isn’t hopeless;
it’s easier to leave
regret’s shore with torn canvases.
Rage will rage at the avalanche,
even from its own summit.
Peace will find peace in all temples.
We create our ink
like portrait painters
in diverse lands,
but each voice
has its complexion.
We can see hope
inside the stadium where love
is always the visiting team.
We’d rather answer prayers
than use dog ears
to hear faraway trouble.
We’d rather stop history from bleeding
than use a shark’s nose
to find distant blood.
We’d rather get rid of darkness
than use owl eyes
to record dark crimes.
We’d rather pave a safe
road to one village
than divine every way
leading to tyranny.
We’d rather keep one person from drowning
than find the wreckage of tragedy.
You sang quietly
in life’s rear procession;
those at the front never noticed,
until history went forward
and told us you’re gone.
They made you give up the bard
before they made you give up the ghost—
manuscripts,
every last drop of ink,
all the blank papers.
You weren’t supposed
to die as a poet—
somehow you did.
What did you manage to hide
from your captors?
Those who craft verse
get only thin veils to conceal it.
How did you smuggle your bard
out from the prison called fate?
Your lines didn’t scare them—
only one thing did:
Letting history witness
your death and having it alter
the parade of their crimes.
With a priest, your wife
retrieved The Song of the Bread,
waiting to be finished.
All it took was a bribe—
this shows how much
they feared your words,
which spoke of farmers and fields:

“It’s the sower. He is standing tall and stout
in the sunset’s rays which are like flowing gold;
before his feet are the fields of the fatherland
spreading their unlimited nakedness.”

Who can be an enemy to that?
Does this make you a traitor?

“I’m harvesting alone tonight;
my love has a love.
My pale scythe, a slice of light
from the full moon above.

I walk through dark furrows,
head and feet bare.
She’s wearing a bridal veil,
I wear the wind on my hair.

I cut through the waving wheat.
Her hair is a lake.
I shear and bind my grain
while a mourning dove wakes.”

Who, then, can kill
poets as poets?
The death of one rhyme is a holocaust.
Genocide—quilts stitched
out of all blood types.
Genocide—hourglasses
filled with victims’ ashes.
Genocide—sundials
presented to Hades.
Genocide—the devil’s red pen
correcting utopian poems.
Genocide—Trojan horses
entering towns without walls.
Genocide—equations
that always come out to 0
when people are added.
Genocide—translators
who think the word “suffering”
only exists in their language.
Genocide shoots millions
of family photos—
frames them blank side facing the glass,
then hangs each in the Museum of Hate.
Historians should ask:
What do poets call genocide?
Really? What does it matter?
If we write “death
is a room full of clocks
that only work in the darkness,”
critics will say: “You’re no expert.
And you’ve never been to this room.”
True.
We can imagine what we’ve seen,
but we can’t see what we haven’t seen.
This is my genocide and it isn’t.

I’m trying to grasp your fire
by walking barefoot
on the coals of our past.
Yet that’s impossible—
facts of time move ahead …
… sympathy’s warmth stays behind.
With each year that departs,
genocide’s heirs must go
deeper into history’s desert—
just to bring victims some empathy.
Time has eyes
in the back of its head,
but it never opens
them when surging forward.
Time has always been
the butcher’s best lawyer.
Time only buys fresh blood
at the Genocide Store;
it packs new slaughter
and stamps the good—
best before next election;
time never feels well
if history invites it
but doesn’t serve veal
genocide.
100 years is enough—
let’s feast as one
without one apology.
But we won’t let years
or even seconds
become evidence.

Centuries won’t be long enough
for killers to clean
the guilt off their words—
sell them to the world
as “brand new.”
Seconds will be too long
for the past to blink.
We’ll plant the patience
of Sequoias in our kids.
We’ll pull the weeds
from their gardens of empathy.
We’ll teach them the brain
surgeon’s sobriety—
they won’t lack
the cultivation
of winemakers.
They’ll learn harmony
from the silence of monks,
and silence from books that spout lies.
We won’t build windmills underground
just to placate cross winds.
Our breath will keep turning
pages of tomorrow’s diary.
I hear your words:

“There’s a nation on my writing table—
an ancient nation speaking to me
from this soil where dawn was born.”

We have poets willing
to plow the earth;
wine-making priests,
teachers willing to learn …
… plowing, praying, and winemaking,
librarians letting infants
cry among old books;
we have doctors
helping bury our dead,
soldiers who sing
about triumph and loss,
painters who paint
those with no name,
sculptors who sculpt
those with no fame.
How did you know this soil
was fertilized with our blood?

“Perhaps this rust-red color
hasn’t been bestowed by nature—
a sponge for wounds,
this soil drank from life, from sunlight,
and, living defenselessly, it turned red,
becoming Armenian soil.”

We’ll grow cherries
and pomegranates
until the ground dies of thirst.
We won’t fear spilling
red wine before it becomes
Christ’s blood.
Our desire is patient—like clocks
that seduce cognac;
our patience is fleeting, like thousands
of church candles lit at the same time.
Now I feel as you do:

“The chords of my nerves shiver
with a trembling that furrows
the mind to wider creative paths
than the sun-soaked winds of spring can.
And all my senses are woken up
by lips still calling for vengeance
and souls still red with wounds.”

We shall seek revenge,
but music will make
the sound of our guns.
We’ll be first to draw red,
but the shade will flow
from our Ararat Scales,
not from enemy pain.
Our poets have cartridges
filled with the past.
Revenge is a battle
that must be won without war.
The Library of Genocide
may invite killers inside,
but it mustn’t deny
them the exit to log
guilt in its own archives.
We have to fight
with antique guns until history
surrenders its centuries of apathy.
Wrath must be a bomb
that explodes when the timer
has counted to infinity.
Revenge should be blunt—
like swords owned
by heroes who’ve lost,
but care not for revenge.
Foes should be free
to deny until they find
their humanity lost;
such wars can be won.
Sharpened pens,
brushes dipped in read history—
both can cross enemy borders
without crossing their land.
My heart is a children’s library
next to a graveyard—
it has no space
for any more bodies.
Genocide is a million dead figures
of speech trying to grow crimson
clichés on forget-me fields—
yet poetry is a forget-me-not.

“Never again.” “We shall never forget.”
“Justice.” “We demand recognition.”
Unlike nations,
verse has no space
for clichés in its canons,
nor red on its flags.
We keep reading History’s
unfinished epic, Pages of Blood,
which not even Time
has the time to complete—
only humanity’s death can finish it.
I’m tired of asking:
How much for a poet’s gore?
Your heart—
a white hummingbird
cut open at night.
Your eyes—
two black panthers
caught in a snowstorm.
Your voice—
the howl of a wolf caged in a theater.
Your smile—
a bridge joining two nations at war.
Your verse—
taxi drivers
taking scenic routes,
never charging extra.
I won’t describe the shade of your red—
let people read for themselves.
The death of one person is a genocide
if you kill the only one like him.
Who, then, is the same as someone else?

We don’t want numbers.
We want to count on truth.
Only final genocides
merit pity—we want a future.
Lost homes, lost territories,
land as concession for peace—
still some claim our nation
has too much space on the map.

Invaders have passed;
the soil is a passport stamped
by a motley of fingerprints.
We never had Alexander’s empire,
America’s dreams,
China’s silk,
or Caesar,
but the Silk Road was there,
and Romans once too.
Alexander’s armies came.
Jamestown had an Armenian in 1618.
This is our scent—
a cellar full of old
books that haven’t been read;
wine forgotten
in a barrel;
a pond where mosquitos
are never disturbed;
a loud waterfall
still undiscovered;
the descent from an unclimbed mountain.
Armenia, why don’t you go away?
Just stop demanding.
We don’t want your spoiled wine—
your antibodies drying
in the desert for years.
Britain won’t dip its hands
in your mosquito pond.
Your pain is too loud,
but also too remote.
For God’s sake, we hear you,
and we’d like to reach out,
but we’re not willing
to step over “good” fences—
though the red paint is yours:

“HMG is open to criticism in terms of the ethical dimension. But given the importance of our relations (political, strategic and commercial) with Turkey, and that recognising the genocide would provide no practical benefit to the UK or the few survivors of the killings still alive today, nor would it help a rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey, the current line is the only feasible option.”
—House of Lords Debate (1999)

“The Foreign Office documents include advice in 1995 to the then Tory foreign minister, Douglas Hogg, that he should refuse to attend a memorial service for the victims, and attempts to encourage the idea that historians were in disagreement over the facts. The government refused to include the Armenian massacres as part of holocaust memorial day.”
The Guardian, “Britain accused of ‘genocide denial’ over Armenia” (2009)

“Finally, in October 2007, when the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, the Foreign Office wrote an alarming memorandum, expressing concern that ‘the Armenian diaspora worldwide lobbying machine’ would now ‘go into overdrive!’”
Huffington Post, “Internal Documents Reveal UK Officials Misled Parliament on Armenian Genocide” (2010)

“Genocide scholarship is one thing that the FCO have never been interested in applying to an issue they wish would go away. There is no reference in the papers to the 2007 resolution of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, which resolved that ‘the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the empire between 1914-23 constituted a genocide against Armenians and the Assyrians and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks’. The FCO merely evinces concerns that the US House of Foreign Affairs Committee had resolved to recognize the events as genocide: as a result, ‘we can also expect the Armenian Diaspora worldwide lobbying machine to go into overdrive’. This is hardly the language of an impartial enquirer: the FCO had become a rather cynical adversary of the truth, or at least of a Foreign Minister ever uttering it.”
—Geoffrey Robertson QC, An Inconvenient Genocide (2014)

“The British government has a strong track record in sophistry. Since Turkey became a strategic partner in the Nineties, the Foreign Office has been honing a set of cod-legal arguments designed to deceive Parliament – and by extension the electorate – into believing that the term ‘genocide’ is not appropriate in this case. Its current position is that it will only use the label if an international tribunal has already done so. This is a nimble legal dodge, which rules out recognising almost every genocide in history.”
The Independent, “It’s pure sophistry that stops Britain recognising the Armenian genocide” (2015)

Yet, none of this is Britain;
for us it will always be
Benjamin Whitaker.
One person’s voice
can be greater than
the honored crowd’s silence.
What, then, is a life worth?
Could we define genocide
if war pushes us to the brink—
when there won’t be millions
to kill without shame?
Is the price of plasma
really based on supply and demand?
I ask you again:
What’s the difference
between one death and ten million?
Is it 1 and 10,000,000?
Tell me the numbers
don’t warrant a genocide.
Say the nature
isn’t systematic.
The math doesn’t
add up to a holocaust.
Not enough torture,
deportation, and rape.
Can’t try under Article 7
of the Rome Statute.
How long will lawmakers play
Genocide hide-and-seek?
They talk like children—
they suffer like grownups.
What else can we do?
No matter where we are,
we carry pieces of you:

“On my desk is a gift,
a handful of soil on a plate
from the fields of my fatherland.
The giver thought he gave his heart,
but didn’t know he was offering
the hearts of his forefathers as well.”

Mapmakers today never
give us much time,
but there’s still enough
soil to give every
denier a handful—
make them see its color;
they demand historical proof …
… we’ll hand them physical evidence.
Our heart is an immigrant
transplanted from its body.
We’ve built churches
in all parts of the world,
saved some back home,
died in foreign wars,
and enriched other cultures.
We’ve become Arméniens de France,
Armenian Americans, Armeense Nederlanders,
Российские Армяне, Αρμένιοι της Κύπρου,
Schweizerische Armenier, armênio-brasileiros,
 
We’ll thank the noble,
while never forgetting
our հայկական ժառանգությունը.

We’re not the prism of diaspora—
merely light going in as one nation,
and leaving as new rays.
Enemies bring defeat,
yet the language won’t fall—
reshaped by the wind’s
voice that sings
it across the world.
We’re violins crafted back home,
yet the bows that touch
us have distinct strands of hair.
Abroad, our homes search for home—
too often like sharps and flats needing
space between B and C, or E and F.

Our background can’t meet
us head-on as we walk away
from it on one-way streets;
we can gaze back and hope
our past is able to follow
at the speed we’re retreating.
Many return to the homeland as tourists—
no longer able to grasp
their first culture;
some leave full of fire,
eager to return—
only as anthropologists;
others come back let down—
they must bury memories
that haven’t died recently.
Paron Diaspora is a paper
from the old country
gone out of print.
He remembers his land
like headlines without dates.
Paron Diaspora is a sculptor
who’s cast as the outcast.
Paron Diaspora opens his
restaurants on big streets,
but the taste is too distant for locals.
Paron Diaspora walks around towns,
praising his land’s greatness—
all in perfect accent—
sometimes Southern, sometimes Boston,
sometimes Midwestern, sometimes New York.
Worry not, Daniel,
about the heart of the race;
we need unique paths
to build more roads home.
Paron Diaspora won’t forget you.
When pens won’t write,
our voice will compose;
if voices shall fail,
great minds will change key.
Enemies count on human
memory’s limits.
They say: When survivors die,
the need to remember their pain
will perish as well.
We say: We’ve buried their bodies,
but not their words.
They say: When the new
generation comes,
they’ll forgive a bit more.
We say: We’ll keep yelling in front
of the house where denial tries to sleep.
They say: When that generation goes,
it’ll be quiet—we can sleep,
at last, without guilt.
We say: Poets will turn
our shouts into songs, then whisper
them to kids falling asleep.

Remembrance is a fortress
that has never fallen.
These are my memories:
Great-grandfather,
David Davtyan, with his family.
There were 62 relatives
trying to escape.
Only 4 survived—
one of them his father, Mirijan.


(My great-great grandfather, Mirijan, in 1959. He escaped conscription into the Ottoman Army, which, during the genocide, had less to do with military service for Armenians, and more to do with the removal of able-bodied men from that population. His first wife, Rebecca, died in Iraq on a death march. He eventually ended up in Bulgaria, where the previous photo of my great-grandfather and his family was taken.)

Destroying people’s bodies
is genocide’s flesh and blood—
wrecking their past
is its very soul.
When the sharpening stone
of our past has worn out,
we’ll go to its gravestone—
dig up the echoes.
Denial has weapons?
Good. They only fire backwards.
We hear your voice:

“And I sang: ‘fight to the end.’
My pen is a burnt cigar—
an offering for you;
be brave, Armenian warriors—
I sang revenge and my voice blew
the ashes of my odes your way.”

We’ll write
the work you never
could start.
No bard can die
if one elegist
remains to keep him alive.
The writer’s time moves straight.
Though he walks to the end,
his life is a clock turned
by the hands of his readers.
Shivers, The Heart of the Race,
Pagan Songs, The Song of the Bread

we have all your books;
they won’t be lost now.
I can see your face only
on the pages,
but your voice
is all around me:

“Be naked like the poet’s mood,
for the pagan is suffering
in your unconscious,
and he won’t hurt you.”

Our bards can
witness without seeing,
hear without listening,
feel without touching,
smell without breathing,
and try without eating.
Let the denier say he can’t taste
our bitterness … time
has taken its flavor—
we’ll grant him a dog’s tongue;
let the denier say he can’t smell
our blood … the desert
has dried it—
we’ll grant him a wolf’s nose;
let the denier say he can’t feel
our pain … our children’s
skin is young and has healed—
we’ll grant him a shaman’s hands;
let the denier say he can’t hear
our cries … the wind
has taken and lost them—
we’ll grant him a cat’s ears;
let the denier say he can’t see
our past … the nights of time
have made it obscure;
we’ll grant him owl eyes;
let the denier say he can’t understand
why we speak to the dead—
we’ll grant him the eyes of a psychic.
We’re still with you:

“Tomorrow come to my grave;
as bread, I’ll place my poet’s
heart into your bag.
So long as your grief lives,
my poet’s heart will be your blood,
and the blood of your orphans.
Hungry One, come to the graveyard tomorrow!”

Perhaps I should ask again.
What are you asking
for a poet’s blood?
What’s the value if it can feed
a whole nation?
The strongest weapon
is a question no one can answer.
I’ll wield it even after
finishing this poem.
They want history?
We’ll give them poetry from the past.

They want to count the bodies?
We’ll give them a thousand abacuses
made from the victims’ bones.

Do I insult Turkishness
if I ask them to read our red poetry?
Let history decide.
Do I insult Turkishness
if I present them with those abacuses
and ask them to count the bodies?
Let history decide.

They want the past?
We want it too.
They want to juggle insults?
We’ll laugh at their circus.
They have Article 301?
We have Article 302—
“Yesterday’s Future.”
Are we to blame?
We offer to accept
the apology,
but they refuse to give it.
We can mend things—
tomorrow, even—
if they just hint
at the chance.
Still, they want to keep looking back;
they’re obsessed with the past;
they want history.
If they like it so much,
we should hand it to them:

“They have drawn from the fields the male population and thereby destroyed their agricultural communities. They have annihilated or displaced at least two thirds of the Armenian population and thereby deprived themselves of a very intelligent and useful race.”
—Henry Morgenthau writing to Robert Lansing, November 4, 1915, Constantinople, received by Mr. Lansing on December 1st
Morgenthau’s quote was obtained from the Office of the Historian, which is an office of the United States Department of State within the Bureau of Public Affairs, and it’s responsible for preparing and publishing the official historical documentary record of U.S. foreign policy.

“The dead from this wholesale attempt on the race are variously estimated from 500,000 to more than a million, the usual figure being about 800,000. Driven on foot under a fierce summer sun, robbed of their clothing and such petty articles as they carried, prodded by bayonet if they lagged; starvation, typhus, and dysentery left thousands dead by the trail side. The ration was a pound of bread every alternate day, which many did not receive, and later a small daily sprinkling of meal on the palm of the outstretched hand was the only food. Many perished from thirst or were killed as they attempted to slake thirst at the crossing of running streams.”
—U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Guthrie Harbord
General Harbord’s report comes from the U.S. Department of State Archives, presented by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge on April 13, 1920, and printed a week later by the Washington Government Printing Office.

“Any doubt that may have been expressed in previous reports as to the Government’s intentions in sending away the Armenians have been removed and any hope that may have been expressed as to the possibility of some of them surviving have been destroyed. It has been no secret that the plan was to destroy the Armenian race as a race, but the methods used have been more cold-blooded and barbarous, if not more effective, than I had first supposed.”
—Leslie A. Davis, American Consul in Harput
The consul’s testimony appears in the U.S. National Archives, doc. NA/RG59/867.4016/269

“The murder of Armenians has become almost a sport, and one Turkish lady passing one of these caravans, and thinking she too would relish killing an Armenian, on the guards’ invitation took out a revolver and shot the first poor wretch she saw. The whole policy of extermination transcends one’s capacity for indignation. It has been systematic in its atrocious cruelty, even to the extent of throwing blame for the murders on the Kurds, who are instigated by the Government to lie in wait in order to kill and pillage. Its horrors would be unbelievable if less universally attested. For scientific cruelty and butchery it remains without precedent. The Turks have willfully destroyed the great source of economic wealth in their country. The persecution is madness, but one wonders when the day will come, and if it is close enough at hand still to save the few remnants of this wretched community.”
—Lewis Einstein, American Chargé d’Affaires in Constantinople
The diplomat’s account is taken from his book, Inside Constantinople: A Diplomatist’s Diary During the Dardanelles Expedition, April–September, 1915, published in 1918.

“Like the genocide of the Armenians before it, and the genocide of the Cambodians which followed it—and like too many other such persecutions of too many other peoples—the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.”
—U.S. President Ronald Reagan, April 22, 1981
The president’s statement was taken from the official website of the Reagan Library, and was given during Proclamation 4838 – Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.

“Today we recall in sorrow the million and one-half Armenians who were tortured, starved, and butchered to death in the First Genocide of the Twentieth Century.”
—Monroe Freedman, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council Director
The director’s statement was also taken from the official website of the Reagan Library, and it comes from a speech given on April 24, 1980.

History, history, history.
Why do we need it?
Why do we care when
we want new stories?
Our past is all over—
it’s there for all to see.
There’s no harm in forgetting old news.
Look. You can find the records.
Deniers have lost the battle for yesterday—
now they’re fighting
to take our tomorrow.
The living grow older—
the dead maintain eternal youth.
We’re not afraid of antiquity;
the artists they hung
are younger than ever.
the pregnant women they killed
keep waiting to give birth;
the children they left in the desert
remain children—
still looking for water;
the Armenianness they stepped on,
has come back—
like desert sands
that settle after a storm.
The future is all we have—
it’s a white crane
that watches from above;
when its time has come,
the feathers carrying our past
will fall from the sky,
reminding those after us
we were here;
you must’ve known this happiness
with the birth of your children,
and I shall end my poem on it.

 

***************************************************************************

Everywhere Armenian Providence

Daniel Varoujan was 31
when he was killed.
31 years isn’t a long life,
but it’s a long time
to write poetry.

***************************************************************************

A Tribute to Franz Werfel and Vasily Grossman

“This book was conceived in March of the year 1929, during the course of a stay in Damascus. The miserable sight of maimed and famished-looking refugee children, working in a carpet factory, gave me the final impulse to snatch the incomprehensible destiny of the Armenian people from the Hell of all that had taken place.”
—Franz Werfel, preface to The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933)

(Franz Werfel with representatives of the French-Armenian community)

 

“Never in my life have I bowed to the ground; I have never prostrated before anyone. Now, however, I bow to the ground before the Armenian peasants who, during the merriment of a village wedding, spoke publicly about the agony of the Jewish nation under Hitler, about the death camps where Nazis murdered Jewish women and children. I bow to everyone who, silently, sadly, and solemnly, listened to these speeches.”
—Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook (1962)

(Vasily Grossman, second from the right, with villagers from Tsakhkadzor in 1961)

***************************************************************************

Links to the Articles

“Geoffrey Robertson puts the case against Turkey for 1915 Armenian genocide”
Louis Nowra (JANUARY 3, 2015)

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/geoffrey-robertson-puts-the-case-against-turkey-for-1915-armenian-genocide/news-story/282b552190b96a4a5a17bf38d447af57

“Britain accused of ‘genocide denial’ over Armenia”
David Leigh (NOVEMBER 3, 2009)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/03/armenia-genocide-denial-britain

“Internal Documents Reveal UK Officials Misled Parliament on Armenian Genocide”
Harut Sassounian (MARCH 18, 2010)

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/harut-sassounian/internal-documents-reveal_b_344794.html

“It’s pure sophistry that stops Britain recognising the Armenian genocide”
Alex Dudok de Wit (APRIL 23, 2015)

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/its-pure-sophistry-that-stops-britain-recognising-the-armenian-genocide-10199118.html

***************************************************************************

Thank you to my brother, Arthur Ovanesian, for suggesting key edits and providing the idea for the epilogue.

 

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

PC, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


(DISS)INFORMATION

«PC» was first published in Volume 7 of The American Journal of Poetry (July 1st, 2019). The poem subsequently appeared in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

PC

Those who remember too much history are doomed not to make the same mistake twice.
—Ozka Wild

This is the jolt generation.
The surge in a crowd without reason,
powered by mental shock—
videos of riots, planes bombing buildings
played over and over again.
We must tolerate more.
We must find a cure for empathy.
The suspect jolted when he saw the police;
witnesses were shocked when they saw him gunned down.
“Officer, I’m unarmed,” were his last
recorded words; they’re about to go viral.
Quickly, 120 volts. Social media shock therapy
to cure the insanity.
We need an outlet for our anger.
We must find a cure for reason.
Hashtag the polarity;
it’s us and them—
us against them.
Yes or no? Do or die! Do or die? Right or wrong? Black or white?
We must cure the gray matter in our brain.
Practice improves reaction time due to changes in white matter.
White. White. White.
Practice reacting; do it now; do it fast.
We must find a cure for patience.
Like. Post. Share. Tweet.
The sudden shock of the terrorist attacks
has jolted us into action.
Jolt with unity.
Put French flags all over profile photos.
Raise the shock factor until it stuns us.
Tears—vestigial fluids of the new electric age.
Don’t cry—your eyes have evolved.
You can’t help a person bleeding on the screen.
You don’t have the empathy for 1,000,000 headlines.
What you see is real and not real.
Put your hands in the air.
Put your hands behind your back.
If you’re innocent, pick up the phone and shoot—
images of dead bodies, videos of planes hitting buildings.
“Officer, I’m unarmed.”
Numerous witnesses reported that the suspect
jolted right when he saw the police.
This is the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.

*

Bag and tag the bodies;
send them to the news.
Leave followers at their graves.
Send followers to their families.
We’ll do nothing about guns.
The Constitution has over 325,000,000 followers,
and it follows no one.
The 2nd Amendment has gone viral.
We must carry guns because we can carry guns.
We must load our guns because we’re free to carry them.
According to Founding Father, Anton Chekhov,
we must remove all that has no relevance to the Constitution.
If the 2nd Amendment says people have a right to bear arms,
then the arms must go off;
if they’re not going to be fired, they shouldn’t be in the 2nd Amendment.
According to Smith and Wesson’s razor,
the simplest solution to a problem is a gun.
We’re the jolt generation;
we get things done the easy way.
We repealed the 18th Amendment
because we needed to sell booze.
We can’t repeal the 2nd Amendment
because we need to sell guns.
The Constitution isn’t worth the money it’s printed on.
Mr. President, unfollow this Constitution.
We want to like something new.

*

This is the jolt generation.
We’re the new electric newspaper.
We’re in constant shock.
We don’t think—therefore, we’re not.
Not my president; not my country;
not my body; not my child;
not my problem; not my concern.
Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.

*

What’s on your mind, David?
Did you forget the password to your brain?
Someone is talking about you.
Someone is saying good things.
Someone is saying bad things.
Someone you know may know you.
Someone you don’t know knows what you did.
Someone you know has seen you.
Someone you don’t know recorded you.
Aren’t you curious who did it?
You exist in places you don’t know about.
Don’t you want to know where?
You’re someone’s friend.
You only have 100 friends.
Isn’t it time for new friends?
You know someone who doesn’t know you.
Someone you don’t know knows you.
Someone is checking you out and you don’t know it.
It’s time to check your account.
You’re checking someone out and they don’t know it.
It’s time to let them know.
Open your account; do it now. Hurry up before you miss something.
The cure for curiosity would drive us out of business.
Where are you now?
You can be in 10,000 places at the same time.
You’ve been seen, read, liked, tagged,
shared, friended, unfriended, googled, ogled, and spied on.
You’ve been undressed in 10,000 places at the same time.
You must react quickly.
You must make way for the jolt generation.
You must tell people what’s going on,
or you’ll surely go insane.
You must connect right now.
You need 120 volts.
You need social media shock therapy.
You need an outlet for your anger.

*

We want to recognize faces.
We want to know where everyone is.
We want to know where everyone is
but we don’t want everyone to know
that we know where they are.
The bank robber was described
as a black male
in his thirties who forgot
to turn off his phone,
or, at least, disable location services.
Everyone jolted when the suspect entered the bank.
The suspect jolted at the sight of police.
We need everyone to see this quickly.
We need everyone to react before they know what happened.
Everyone must jolt at the same time.
#Jolt.
Breaking News: “The suspect has gotten away
without stealing anything, but the suspect is black.”
The suspect is dangerous because he’s black.
Black. Black. Black.
KTLA wants every citizen
to make videos of the chase—
including black people, and send them to us
with the hashtag, “#YourChase,”
courtesy of Chase Bank, “Chase What Matters.”
Cut to commercial.
“Coors. Whatever your mountain, climb on.”
Back to KTLA.
We have reports that the black suspect
is hiding in the Santa Monica Mountains.
We want to remind viewers not to approach
the suspect and instead shoot him from a distance.
Now is the time to buy a new smartphone
with the 25,000 megapixel camera.
We need every picture—every picture counts,
but no selfies with the suspect in the background.
Send your pictures with the hashtag, #ClimbOn.”
Use filters, if possible, to make the suspect
appear darker than he is.
We’ll post them on the Coors page.
Get a free beer (Coors Light only) if the police
uses your post to catch the suspect.
Make way for the electric police.
Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.
Jolt with fear if the suspect approaches you.
Don’t lie down and play dead;
this isn’t a black bear.
If you’re still alive,
remember to capture the moment—
you may decide to relive
the near-death experience later.
Share with your loved ones.
LAPD will tag the bastard soon.

*

Amanda, we haven’t seen you in a while.
Do you want us to know where you are?
Do you want us to recommend good restaurants?
Do you like Italian food?
There are 5 Italian restaurants in the neighborhood.
Are you Italian?
Have you ever been Italian?
Our data tells us you must like ravioli.
We know where you’ve been.
We know what you like.
We know you didn’t like the Asian place in Hollywood.
We know you’re not a fan of fortune cookies,
but you must enable cookies.
We know what you’ll do before you do it.
Add a bio. Tell us where you live.
Find friends you don’t have.
Go on vacation just to spice up your profile.
Go on vacation to spice up your profile
and make people jealous.
Make yourself jealous.
Go to an Italian restaurant in Italy.
Take a picture of the exterior.
Walk inside. Take a picture of the interior.
Sit down. Take a picture of the table.
Call the waiter. Take a selfie with the waiter.
Get the menu. Take a picture of the menu.
Call the waiter. Point to the ravioli.
Take a picture of yourself pointing at the ravioli.
Wait for the ravioli—this is terror;
there are no more pictures to take.
The ravioli arrives.
You’re hungry for people’s jealousy.
Take a picture of the food and post it immediately.
You must react now.
You must think what other people will think.
Your body is jolting with hunger.
You must not think what other people will think.
You shall not pick up the fork until you get 100 likes.
No, you shall never pick up the fork.
You shall always be afraid of what other people think.
You’ve learned the art of discipline.
You’ve learned to be like everyone else.
You’re the master of Zen Instagram.
You must find a cure for inner peace.
You shall not eat a thing lest you get too fat
for other people’s jealousy.
Only skinny people can make others feel bad.
No more Italian restaurants, especially in Italy.
You must think what other people will think.
Carbs are good for social media,
but not for your body.
Call the waiter. Tell them there’s hair in the food—
you won’t be eating here again.
Congratulations. You’ve made free memories
and lost weight in the process.
You must not think what other people will think.
Your friends are utterly shocked—
you can eat ravioli without getting fat.
Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.

*

We need more—
more check-ins, more stories,
more action, more events,
more excuses not do what we should do.
We’re the new electric activism.
We’re louder and more trivial than ever.
We get things done the easy way.
The codes for nuclear reaction lie at our fingertips.
The meltdown is a mouse click away.
We prefer to drop hashtags all over Syria—
we would’ve done the same in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Grassroots movements are so floppy disk
we don’t know where to put them.
We have abolished the CD players of Sony and Yamaha—
2D printers are the next to go.
Our outrage is environmentally friendly;
we reduce, reuse, recycle, repost, and retweet.
We let no hate go to waste.
We’re close to finding a cure for apologies.
We hold on to every single love.
Not everyone deserves our love.
We forget nothing.
Our goal is to cure the world’s amnesia with endless hashtags.
We won’t forget you even if you forget us.
We’ll never leave you alone, even if you want us to.
We’ll always be there for you.
We must prevent people from getting amnesia so we don’t have to cure it.
We’re the new electric activism;
we prefer to do things the easy way.

*

Make way for the jolt generation;
we need an outlet for our anger.
We don’t need to cure inner peace
if millions of people can see it
and feel jealous.
The private life is dead.
The private life is dead.
The private life is dead.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

 

Dear Russia, a poem by David Garyan, published in Interlitq


(DISS)INFORMATION

This poem consists of three «acts,» of which the first two were published in Volume 6 (January 1st, 2019) of The American Journal of Poetry. The entire poem subsequently appeared in (DISSINFORMATION), published by Main Street Rag.

Please click here read the story behind the initiative to republish all my work lost with the disappearance of The American Journal of Poetry.


 

(ACT I: Red)

A Metaphor is Fake News

A simile is like fake news.
Metaphor

Humans are torn pages from books—
arranged by gods who can’t read.
Humans are metaphors:
figures of speech that assert people
are other people to enhance
writing or gossip.
Black people are white people.
White people are black people.
Humans are like similes:
figures of speech that compare
unlike people to make descriptions more colorful.
White people are like black people.
Black people are like white people.
Metaphors are humans:
philosophers who say one thing is another thing;
madmen who say one thing is another thing.
Similes are like humans:
they compare two unlike things
and say they’re similar, like madmen;
they compare two unlike things
and say they’re similar, like philosophers.

****

Humans who drop bombs
are the ushers of democracy.
Humans who drop bombs
are like the ushers of democracy.
The bombs will always fall
because we weren’t guilty
of inventing gravity.
Even the cosmos was born
from an explosion—
we’re only to blame for the literature.
Human nature is an old violin
strung with saints’ hair
and played in a chamber of skeptics.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is acute, like an insight,
yet hope is also acute, like an illness.
Hope is obtuse, as in narrow minded;
hope is also obtuse—more than 90 degrees.
But how many different triangles
do you need to prove that three angles
always add up to the same despair?
Hope is the freedom to draw three sided squares.
Hope is like the freedom to draw four sided triangles.
Dear humanity, our philosophy is a million
blank papers inside red
envelopes falling on Damascus.
Our crisis is an Inuk
who sees palm trees in his dreams.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
We have walked a long way
on the treadmill of reason
to avoid making pilgrimages.
Please, America, don’t invent
missile-proof houses and deploy
humanitarian forces to build them
in war zones so everyone can live
happy lives under your air strikes—
just stop dropping bombs.

****

Humans can’t tear away from screens.
The “like” button is a simile for danger,
but the real world is danger.
Danger is a person who thinks
he’s safe at home.
The person who thinks
he’s safe at home
is a public library that doesn’t lend books.
If you never leave the house—
a bookshelf holding lots of knowledge
can still fall and cause problems.
A bomb is a book.
A bomb is like a book.
A book is like a bomb.
A book is a bomb.
Our crisis is an Inuk who sees
palm trees on the screen;
scholars say this can’t be a crisis
because it all depends on how we define
crisis. Is it good? Is it bad?
It’s all relative and they urge
people to think with extreme caution:
When the Inuit see palm trees on the screen,
they aren’t really seeing palm trees
because you can’t, in fact, claim to have seen
things when you’ve only seen them on a screen.
Have you truly seen the horrors of Vietnam
after watching them on TV?
Would you claim you saw the Mona Lisa
after looking at pictures on the internet?
Seeing isn’t seeing.
Seeing isn’t like seeing.
Yes, the Inuit can’t be terrified
of palm trees on the screen
because they have no right
to claim they ever saw them.
Hence, Alaskan Natives
shouldn’t be afraid of giving up their land
because we need more space to build
bombs, planes, and factories.
We need more global warming because
the population is growing and Antarctica
is still too cold for palm trees; Denmark
is making good progress,
but Arctic Norway is still frozen.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who sees palm trees in real life.
The scholars are now confused,
but lawmakers aren’t afraid yet.
The Russians sold Alaska for pennies on the dollar,
and Alaskan Natives will give up winter,
just like they gave up their land—
from palm tree to shining palm tree.
Winter is simply bad for business.
Winter is a job-killing regulation.
Winter is a ski resort,
and ski resorts are like the arts in public schools.
We must cut the arts to make sure
kids get more math and science.
Statistics and science show that our kids
are behind in statistics and science.
Math and science are nuclear bombs and, therefore, important.
Ski resorts aren’t nuclear bombs and, therefore, of no use.
We must cut winter or America’s assets will freeze.
1) The greenhouse effect should be outsourced
to all Arctic spots on the planet.
2) Still, we can produce
good global warming right here in the States—
Americans are tired of overpaying for heating.
More jobs, more nukes, more take-home pay.
3) We must sign the North American Global Warming Agreement (NAGWA);
global warming should freely move
across the borders, but the Inuit must be restricted.
We all know the price of global warming
only depends on the free market.
We all know fossil fuels aren’t the problem.
Black Tuesday didn’t affect the USSR
because they had no free market,
yet fossil fuels burned and burned.
Russians without warm clothes
confirmed that communist Siberia was the coldest
place without capitalism.
If fossil fuels caused global warming,
the Cold War could’ve never happened—
gas, coal, and oil powered the arms race
but the political climate only got colder and colder.
So, to sustain global warming, we must remove
all Arctic tribes;
then, we must establish free markets in Siberia
that retain warm relations with other markets.
If Russia hacks global warming again,
communism will rise and flood the market.
Everything will be free,
except the freedom to leave—or travel abroad.
Remember how good it was? The food was free
because there was no food to buy;
you could always travel abroad—
if you never wanted to come back.
When the jig was up and the walls fell,
a curtain of global warming descended across the continent.
“Don’t be coldhearted,” they said. “Put food on the shelves,
then make sure no one can afford it. Give them freedom
to apply for visas, then reject all applications.”
A good capitalist knows that poverty
is more humane than hunger.
A good capitalist knows that actual walls
tear people apart, not lines on a map.
Lines on a map are good metaphors for walls.
Lines on a map are like good similes for walls.
Borders are abstract and walls are concrete;
together they form great poetic devices
that keep people apart.
A wall is a dam that restricts the flood of migrants.
A wall is like a dam that restricts the flow of migrants.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is a white wall with a white door
to which you don’t have the key,
but if you find the door and pick the lock,
armed guards are waiting on the other side;
they’re paid well to watch the border.
Your only hope is to bribe them.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who can’t say “snow” in his language.
A palm tree is a Christmas tree.
A palm tree is like a Christmas tree.
Rich people buy palm trees on Christmas;
the poor must settle for cacti.
If a Christmas tree fell in the USSR,
where no one could celebrate Christmas,
did it make the sound of “Jingle Bells?”
Gravity says yes, because gravity never dies.
Gravity never sees the gravity
of the situation.
Gravity doesn’t call for help
when there’s no one to hear it.
Gravity is a person who falls
off buildings without a parachute
and doesn’t make a sound.
Gravity refuses to slow down with age;
it’s wise—like an old professor.
Bombs still fall according to gravity’s laws,
but now they’re bigger and stronger.
Never fear—gravity knows what to do with bombs;
if such physics don’t suit you, take your pacifism
to the moon and let’s see how long you’ll last—
no one dies because no one’s there,
and bombs don’t fall because lunar gravity is lazy.
Gravity is the cruelest thing on earth.
Everyone who jumps off a building
gets treated exactly the same.
Gravity must be controlled by the Communists.
The Russians have hacked into America’s gravity.
For some reason, the rich no longer fall
slower when they jump off a building.
Nyet, tovarish polkovnik! Everyone gets the same ration!
America will solve the world’s gravity problem
with her entrepreneurial spirit—
luxury parachutes for the rich.
The ACLU is outraged.
Everyone should have the right
to fall off a building without dying—
life, liberty, and the pursuit
of falling off a building without dying.
America will help Africa end its gravity problem.
We’ll drop ten million emergency
parachute kits over the land
using our state-of-the-art parachutes,
which must be returned ASAP.
Gravity doesn’t cost America a thing.
Gravity is like global warming; we can use
as much as we want and it will never run out.
A good capitalist knows that gravity
isn’t responsible for falling wages
or rising temperatures.
A good capitalist knows that gravity
is only responsible for the fall of the USSR.
The gravity in Antarctica is the same
as the gravity in Syria, but Antarctica
needs air strikes
to become a summer resort,
while Syria is already too hot.
Gravity knows that every city must fall.
Gravity doesn’t care that New Orleans
will be the second Atlantis.
Gravity is a foreign threat to America.
America must invade the Democratic People’s Republic of Gravity
to make the world safer,
but New Orleans must sink—
we’ll never forget! Semper Fi!
We’re not savages like the Ancient Greeks—
we’re ushers of democracy.
We’ll let New Orleans fall,
but our history books will know where it sank.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope is a dead metaphor.
A dead metaphor is melted snow.
Melted snow is water.
Water is profit.
Profit is about staying above water.
Dear members of the United States Congressional Capitalist Party (USCCP):
California will soon be Atlantis 3,
except the Sierras and Cascades.
Dump your underwater homes
before the market literally floods.
People in Nevada are partying like its 2999.
Let’s take full advantage and stimulate the economy.
Let’s sell ocean-front houses to Nevada and Arizona.
Californians have enjoyed
this luxury far too long.
Idaho has bought rain checks
from the feds
to get property rights.
By nature, the flooding
should’ve surged to Utah,
but Idaho lobbied Congress
to divert the water at taxpayer expense.
The other states get free
potatoes in exchange.
Europe thinks 49 states struck a great deal—
Idaho taxpayers won’t live to see
the coast, but the other states
get their potatoes now.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who stops hoping for snow.
Hope is an extended metaphor
in an unfinished book.
An unfinished book
is a quiet volcano covered with snow.
Snow is a boomerang that doesn’t return.
A boomerang that doesn’t return is an avalanche.
An avalanche must follow gravity’s laws.
Gravity says real snow falls from the sky.
Real snow is an artist who draws
perfect circles by hand.
Frozen water that doesn’t fall from the sky
is a flawless circle drawn by a compass.
Real snow isn’t a copy of the Mona Lisa,
even if the copy looks better.
Real snow isn’t like a copy of the Mona Lisa,
even if the copy looks better.
Real snow doesn’t fall
from snow machines.
Real snow is the blank canvas
under the Mona Lisa.
Real snow is like the blank canvas
under the Mona Lisa.
Not every blank canvas is real snow.
Not every blank canvas is like real snow.
Our crisis is an Inuk
who knows all of this.

****

Our crisis is an Inuk
who has forgotten how snow feels.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
Hope was the last snow on earth
melting in the hand of an Inuk
who couldn’t forget the word “hope.”
The last snow on earth
melting in the hand of an Inuk
was a sign of bad luck—like 13 black cats crossing
the path of 13 people who just broke 13 mirrors.
Hope. Hope. Hope.
What is it?
What is it like?
Hope is an unfurnished mansion given
to someone who can’t afford furniture.
Hope feels like anthropologists do in a war zone.
Hope is a physicist who jumps off
a building and prays for gravity to fail.
Hope feels like unrequited love
from a person you’ll never meet.
Hope is a metaphor for things you shouldn’t expect.
Hope is like a simile for things you shouldn’t expect.
Hope is a plate full of freewill seasoned
with foregone conclusions.
Freewill is like a person at a buffet,
who’s free to eat past his limit,
and still has the freedom to make his body feel hungry.
Hope. Hope. Hope.

 

(ACT II: White)

Dear Russia

We found the word “hangover”
in your dictionary
and it was awkward.
How dare you have such a word
in this cold language?
What were you thinking?
Who gave you permission
to feel any pain at all?
Who allowed you to be human?
How dare you stray
from CNN’s stereotypes?
Our neutral stations worked
so hard to air them for you:
Russian aggression, corruption,
no soul, KGB, communist, alcoholic;
this is what you are, Russia,
because our networks said so
and they’re not run by the state.
Your children aren’t children.
Your suffering isn’t suffering.
Your diseases aren’t diseases.
Your disasters aren’t disasters,
because you’re drunk all the time
and you don’t really feel a thing.
Russia, you did what only America
is allowed to do in Guatemala,
Chile, Iran, and the Congo.
Russia, nothing you do
will ever be good enough—
nothing you say
will ever be believed,
because Russian promises
are like history books
written about tomorrow.
Your twenty million Russkies
didn’t die to win the war.
You didn’t take Berlin.
You didn’t even put the Soviet flag
on the Reichstag.
You didn’t liberate Auschwitz.
You didn’t suffer the Leningrad Blockade.
You didn’t send the first
person to space.
How dare you invade Afghanistan first?
Russia, stop meddling in America’s greatness.
Your blood type is American Negative
and we can’t use it.
You’re a threat to our imperialism.
Please, leave the bombing of hospitals to us;
we’ll show you how it’s done in Syria.
Russia, Vietnam was a tie and you know it.
Russia, all your women are whores;
they slept with countless foreigners
at the World Cup—
mostly gullible Americans.
All your women are desperate
for Green Cards and they were taught
to seduce Americans in preschool.
Russia, you’re so dirty no one
wants to live with you—
they don’t even want to visit
for a week or so.
Your birth rate is declining
and we’re happy about that—
less little Russians to grow up
and hack our elections that are bought
and sold by the rich.
Russia, you must know that Al Gore
lost in 2000 because you hacked
the Supreme Court.
Russia, a Harvard study has shown
that more Russkies drown
at the end of Vodka bottles
than all the people who go swimming.
Russia, why are you so barbaric?
Why do you insist on frowning in subways?
Why do you keep bears in the living room?
Why do you treat your women too much like women?
We think you should let your women
carry logs across the forest
and fix tractor engines
so we can discuss this cruelty on the news.
Why are your men so damn masculine?
Why do they insist on providing for the family
and raising their kids in traditional ways?
We want something more exciting
to talk about on MSNBC.
Russia, we want you to be
what we think you are.
Russia, you must start seeing
your own culture through our eyes.
A recent Yale study has shown
that all your citizens are direct
descendants of Ivan the Terrible.
No, Russia, Tolstoy couldn’t have inspired
Gandhi’s nonviolent movement.
Dostoyevsky was simply insane
and Chekhov died in Germany,
so, in our opinion, he wasn’t even Russian.
My fellow Americans,
let’s unite and do our best
to forget the electoral college
until it favors us to remember,
because Russia gave us Trump,
even though he lost the popular vote.
Russia, you made us use
the nuclear bomb.
Russia, we blame you for McCarthyism—
Philip Loeb’s suicide was all your fault.
Dalton Trumbo should’ve never
worked in this town again,
but we’re so glad he didn’t kill himself
because the blacklist really posed no threat.
Oops—sorry, Philip.
Don’t get mad, Russia.
We’re never responsible for anything
because we’re a democracy
and communists can’t do anything right.
Russia, all your grandmothers are spies;
all your children are future spies;
all your IT majors are hackers;
all your athletes are drug-addicts;
all your teachers are party hacks;
and Trump has way more soul than Putin.
Russia, we won the Cold War,
but this isn’t enough for us.
We want to cripple you—
leave you with nothing.
We won’t let you build pipelines to Europe—
your economy must suffer.
How dare you try to invent anything?
How dare you try to fix
the lives of your citizens?
We love seeing your starving children
and victims of alcohol poisoning.
Russia, we enjoyed watching you in the 90’s.
Why can’t you have another Yeltsin?
We miss it when you urinated
on airport runways and got so drunk
that you couldn’t even meet
the Irish delegation.
Why can’t you be more childlike and innocent?
Relations were so easy for us then.
Don’t you remember?
Russia, NASA is doing just fine;
we haven’t gone to the Red Planet first
only because we fear that our astronauts
will defect to the communists
and never come back.
Our experts think you need
a capitalist revolution.
Russia, the CIA can fly Trump to Zurich,
and we can also pay for the train to Petrograd.
Paul Manafort wants to come as well.
Russia, trust us when we say
that we’ve never spied on you
or interfered in your affairs.
Don’t you believe us?
Russia, sorry for promising
not to expand NATO past East Germany—
we’ll never lie to you again.
Watch out, Russia!
We’ll use whatever means are necessary
to bring democracy—
even if people must die.
Russia, unlike you, we’re good
at apologizing for every crime,
and we apologize in advance
for all the crimes we still must commit.
Russia, we never apologized
for shooting down Iran Air Flight 655
because America is too democratic
for Iran’s forgiveness.
Our corruption is better
than your corruption.
How dare you let police officers take bribes
when ours can shoot unarmed black men?
How dare you have state news
when we have Sean Hannity?
Russia, we shot down Flight 655
for the freedom of others.
We gave black people syphilis
because it was good for science.
Project MKUltra was a huge success.
Russia, we fought the Nazis,
but we needed Wernher von Braun
to land on the moon first.
Russia, you must understand this:
We simply wanted to be better than you
but we enjoyed the Cold War far too much.
Russia, we honestly do miss Yeltsin a lot.
Remember the time he got so drunk
at the White House and tried
to hail a cab in his underwear
so he could get a pizza?
Russia, you were so little then
and we loved playing with you,
but we haven’t enjoyed seeing
you grow up at all.
You’re to blame for Edward Snowden.
We could’ve continued spying
on our people and lying about it,
but you had to go and ruin it all—
now we can’t even prosecute him
to feel better about ourselves.
Russia, for the sake of convenience,
we’ll forget that you favored
the colonies during our Revolution
and supported the Union during our Civil War—
not to mention WWII,
which according to our historians
started in 1944 with D-Day,
and ended with the Allies taking Berlin.
Russia, we want you to know that history
is all about interpretation
and we believe Hitler would’ve used
Operation Barbarossa against the US,
but he was too lazy to cross an ocean;
we have plenty of peer-reviewed sources
that confirm this theory, so there.
Russia, you don’t want to go to war
with Harvard and Yale.
Our professors will soon be able
to carry guns—
what can your professors do?
Russia, don’t try it!
You’ll never find the word “aggression”
in our dictionary, even though we
love our military and guns to death.
Russia, Curtis LeMay was a fine American
who could’ve been a war criminal
if Japan hadn’t lost.
Russia, we would’ve loved
to see you and the Nazis kill
more of each other,
but we never wanted Hitler to win.
We now regret Truman’s words,
but only because we won the Cold War.
Russia, we had to kill the noble Patrice Lumumba
because he asked for your help.
We just want people to know
that we’ll support any tyrant,
so long as he’s not a Red.
Mobutu Sese Seko, Luis Posada Carriles,
Manuel Noriega, and Suharto
are just some of our closest buddies.
We backed the Mujahideen
because they hated the communists,
but now we’re fighting them ourselves
because they’ve turned against us—
honestly, what the fuck are we doing?
Russia, we got bored of fighting Saddam,
so we killed him to make space for ISIS,
because our military is just that awesome.
What have you done recently?
Russia, we’re sorry,
but we’d rather have ISIS win
than let you take some credit in Syria.
We don’t need any help
defending the world from the terrorism
we started in the 70’s and 80’s.
Russia, we pull ourselves up
by our own combat boot straps.
Russia, we blame you for Hurricane Katrina
because Bush was too busy
looking into Putin’s soul.
The financial crisis of 2008
was all your fault because we wanted
to show the power of capitalism,
but we overachieved.
Frankly, Russia, your president
should stop taking his shirt off
to seduce our women.
Don’t you know we have puritanical
values that say you can grab
her by the pussy?
Russia, we would appreciate
a McDonald’s inside the Kremlin.
You won’t understand American Exceptionalism,
but if we had to explain it logically,
it’s like a Russian nesting doll
that keeps getting bigger
each time you open it.
No, Russia! Nothing is impossible
if you believe in the American Dream
and work very hard to bury yourself
in $200,000 student debt while working
sixteen hours a day and taking care
of three kids all alone.
Russia, we just had our first black president,
so all black people can now be presidents.
We’re still working on white women,
then Latinos, then Latino women,
then maybe white people who weren’t born here.
Russia, there’s a logic behind all this.
Russia, you poison journalists,
but we prefer to scare and ridicule them
until they simply kill themselves.
Gary Webb, Steven Kangas, Danny Casolaro.
Russia, you’ve been a capitalist
for less than thirty years—
we understand and forgive you,
but, for God’s sake, when you take bribes,
please call them donations—
you’re embarrassing us.
Russia, we feel ambivalent about Bobby Fischer,
but we want you to know
that Ronald Reagan was a good president
because he brought down the Berlin Wall
and reluctantly gave the Contras
cocaine to stop communism,
and he also brought down the Berlin Wall.
Russia, you still haven’t learned
that nothing we do can be wrong
if we simply call it the right thing.
Torture and poverty are fair game
if people are economically disadvantaged
and we’re using enhanced interrogation;
if you add these words to your dictionary,
maybe we can reset relations.
Russia, don’t waste your time;
you’ll never find “Native American Genocide”
in our dictionaries and textbooks—
Natives must stay on reservations,
but you’re more than welcome
to peruse the DNC servers
because we want to sanction you badly.
Russia, you got no brand,
and you got no style.
Even Obama said you don’t make
anything that people want to buy.
We got Special K terrorism—
you just have the generic brand.
Our schools and nightclubs
get shot up each week,
but our free press covers the mess
by respecting the Constitution—
your state news gives
the criminals no fame.
Russia, we tell people they can freely
practice their religion,
then we discriminate against them—
you simply discriminate
without telling people a thing.
Russia, stop trying to be a knock-off America.
You’re a false Adidas.
You’re a fake Gucci handbag.
All your kids want to be American.
Russia, give us your kids;
we want to adopt them
and improve the life of every child
so we can blame you for neglecting minors,
or turning them into hackers.
Russia, we’ll parachute your children
all over America and call it the “American Airlift.”
Russia, we’re not bothered by the fact
that most American literature
actually worth reading
has been about resistance,
protest, and the empowerment
of oppressed individuals.
Russia, we’re more than comfortable
with our Langston Hugheses,
Amiri Barakas, and James Baldwins.
Russia, your dissidents go straight to Gulags;
we simply ignore them for as long as we can.
Dear Russia, unfortunately we’re
running out of time. We must go now.
It hasn’t been a pleasure hearing from you.
Please write as soon as something bad
happens—Mueller’s investigation
is getting real boring and the next election
is still two years away.
We’re looking forward to hearing
about the next poisoned journalist real soon.

Yours truly,

The United States of America

 

(ACT III: Blue)

Money

Capitalism is like a priceless coin given to a pauper who must throw it into a well and wish for two priceless coins instead; we call this the American Dream.

—Oscar Wilde

Bankers like to call it capital, funds, currency, and liquid assets, but they never talk about money because money is dirty, and dirt must be laundered. Money is a person who falls into pools of gasoline and still runs inside burning buildings to save children. Those with a lot of money never touch money, but they often marry for more money; this is called an alliance. Alliances are wealth, riches, and affluence—no traces of cocaine here. Alliances are born when privileged seeds successfully penetrate the nest egg and create fortunes. Money is to happiness as chemo is to cancer. Money is a Buddhist monk without patience. Money is a beggar who knows that money has no inbred value—only alcohol makes you tipsy. When the grocery stores are empty, money is a prostitute with syphilis. When the grocery stores are full, men sleep with money under their pillows. When the state runs out of baby milk, women hide money in their bras. When the market is full of baby milk, men hide money in their underwear. Money calls itself bread and dough, but even money knows that metaphors don’t rise in the oven and similes have no nutritional value. Money is a donation in a democracy and a bribe in an autocracy. Money is a strong defense in constitutional courts and a strong favor in the hands of corrupt judges. Americans say your money is taxed in capitalist countries and stolen in socialist countries; Europeans believe that Americans will sell their soul to the highest bidder. Money is the promise of cold cash to a thief and a pledge in the church. Money is a trust fund to grandchildren and Gs to a drug dealer. Money is bacon to a family and gold to the government. Money is the chameleon who stands out at the party. Money is a magnet for magnates. Money is a fat cat on a cheeseparing diet. Money stabs you in the back because it’s always greener on the other side. In a world full of lies, the phony claims of genuine money can always be taken at face value. Money is a woman who never lies about her age, because money is a woman who never gets old—even when she gets wrinkles. A long in the tooth 100 is better than a fresh 20. A fresh 20 is just as experienced as the cosmopolitan one. Money is the sign language for economists who are deaf to the corruption of capitalism. With the right money, Russian or Mexican brides can be mailed to your door. Money is the glue holding abusive marriages together. Money may not buy happiness, but a gun can buy you plenty of fear. God created people, but Sam Colt made them equal; then capitalism made people unequal, but the AR-15 made them equal again; then Walmart made people unequal once more, but Walmart started selling AR-15s and everything was fine—for now—until Walmart stopped selling AR-15s and we have problems once more. Money is racist towards other money. 18 Mexican pesos only get you 1 US dollar even though Mexicans work harder than Americans—pesos have more color and dollars are still mostly green. Emmett Till was beaten and shot in a town called Money; after the killers were found innocent by a jury of their racist peers, they sold their story to Look so they could brag about the murder. Look, America—look what we did; the transaction is now complete. In the US, you can make money on Jeopardy! Double Jeopardy! and even double jeopardy. In the US, there is such a thing as a free lunch, but only if you’re not hungry—also known as a tax break for the rich. There is Purchase in New York; Sellers in South Carolina; Cashiers in North Carolina; Cash in Arkansas; Coupon in Pennsylvania; Dollar Settlement in Michigan; Country Club in Florida; City of Industry in California; Enterprise in Alabama; Prosperity in West Virginia; Jackpot in Nevada, and Rich in Tennessee. There is, however, no Poverty anywhere in the US, except, for some reason, in Poor, Tennessee.

****

Every morning gives people the chance
to live one more day—
no, every morning gives people the chance
to buy one more thing.
To buy is to live;
to buy things you don’t need
is to live well.
Buying Ferraris when no one’s
looking takes all the fun out of capitalism.
Driving Ferraris when no one’s
looking takes all the fun out of driving Ferraris.
It’s about higher standards of living;
it’s about buying things you don’t need;
it’s about selling stuff no one wants to buy—
the more you buy,
the more money others can spend;
the more money others can spend,
the more useless stuff they’ll buy.
If you can’t join the party,
happiness levels go down
because someone isn’t selling their stuff,
and they must sell to be rich,
or, at least, to be happy.
You must pay for a better quality of life.
Bananas are a good source of potassium,
but organic bananas are better sources of potassium
only because they cost more.
The US needs more millionaires;
millionaires prefer to buy organic bananas
that have the same potassium content as normal bananas.
Millionaires don’t send their kids to public schools—
private schools cost $15,000 a year
and they’re almost better than
the free public schools in Finland.
The basis of our happiness is unhappiness—
the root of the word “unhappiness” comes
from the Americanese word “competition,”
which means “happiness” in English,
because we must always be richer
than our neighbor on the right,
but if we’re richer than our neighbor on the right,
our neighbor on the left might be richer than us
because his house is a meter taller
and we can’t have that—
to be happy, we must sell our house
and buy a larger one,
even though we can’t afford
this bigger happiness.
A wise man once said: “You reap what you sow.”
A wise American once said: “Take out a loan,
because what you can’t have today,
you’ll pay for tomorrow.”
Watch out, world.
America is a Christian nation.
We pardon the turkey and Turkey
because we must celebrate Thanksgiving
and drop bombs on Syria from strategic air bases.
The day after Thanksgiving, we celebrate
Corporate Thanksgiving, which comes
from the Americanese word “Black Friday.”
We give alms to the poor so they can
afford 120 inch HD TVs.
The word “alms” comes from the Americanese word
“discounts” or “promotions.” The poor
must arrive very early after endless
eating, football, and maybe prayer,
to beat the literal and metaphorical shit
out of each other and take
what’s rightfully theirs.
“Beating the literal and metaphorical shit out of others”
comes from the Americanese word “capitalism,”
which means “growth and prosperity” in English.
If logic could be mass-produced and sold,
it would be designed by Apple in California
and assembled in China.
America is the biggest exporter
of American logic to foreign countries.
American logic is cut-throat capitalism
coupled with affirmative action.
American logic is telling Native Americans
to go back to their country.
American logic is “all men are created equal”
when slavery was still legal.
American logic is a democracy
in which the majority can still lose.
“Hypocrisy” comes from the Americanese word “logic,”
and “logic” comes from the Americanese word “exceptionalism,”
which means “better than your sorry ass” in English.
Yeehaw, partner!
In America, there’s no inequality—
our economy remains strong,
and we still have far-right scholars
on our payroll who’ll gladly define
“inequality” on our terms.
“Inequality” comes from the Americanese word
“opportunity,” meaning a white person
and a black person can work hard,
but the white person is still better.
America, it’s all Americanese to me;
we used to have “separate but equal,”
but unequal opportunity is now given to everyone,
and if everyone gets equal unequal opportunity,
then all people invariably become equal.
According to Americanese philosopher, Confusion:
“I think I have more money than my neighbor—
therefore, I’m probably rich.”
America, is there anything you’re not willing to sell?
Your stores are full of stuff I don’t want,
and void of anything I’m looking for.
Why must everything be sold with fear?
I don’t want to buy toothpaste
because my mouth stinks—
I want to buy toothpaste
because the toothpaste itself smells good.
Why can’t you let me decide
whether I’ll kiss the girl, or not?
If I showed you pictures of naked European socialism
and sold you weight loss pills for capitalist fat,
would you like my marketing strategy?
I know, America. I know.
No one likes to see how much they weigh
on the scales of injustice,
but it’s time you had a look.
Does your invasion of the Middle East
smell like shit to European neighbors?
No problem—install long-lasting Febreze
air fresheners on all your tanks
and those righteous Europeans won’t smell a thing.
Do you have trouble picking up French women these days?
We’ve got you covered, America.
For a limited time, buy the complete works
of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre
and we’ll throw in a French dictionary.
Cure yourself of American stupidity—
date not one, but two French women at the same time,
and maybe learn a second language along the way.
No, America; if you haven’t been
with more than one French woman at the same time,
you haven’t done the “ménage à trois.”
France forgives your stupidity and your puritanical roots.
We’re sorry, America, “ménage à trois”
doesn’t come from the Americanese phrase,
“two’s company, three’s a crowd,”
and, honestly, we think this phrase is stupid.
America, we gave New York the Statue of Liberty
to symbolize your independence,
and New York gave the Statue of Liberty
to Las Vegas, which symbolizes America’s free
and depraved economy.
If everyone in Vegas went home a winner,
the city would be one dreary place.
Vegas: What money you win here, stays here.
Las Vegas comes from the Americanese phrase
“to drown one’s sorrow in a desert where the closest
body of water is Lake Mead, about 30 miles away,
but you’re more than welcome to use one of our pools—
The Management.”
America, if you or someone you know
is struggling with a capitalism addiction,
please call the 24/7 Bernie Sanders Hotline—
don’t wait until your economy can’t even afford a phone call.
We speak democratic socialism, progressivism,
communism, and even welfare capitalism.
It’s like Mao said: “This is a people’s campaign.”
Mao. Mao. Mao.
The great Americanese philosopher, Confusion, once said:
“The Mao money we come across,
the Mao problems we see.”
Money is a deck of cards full of jokers
who never laugh in their portraits.

****

American Money:

The dollar’s deadliest sin
is renouncing the 7 deadliest sins.

“Pride” comes from the Americanese word “humility,”
which means in English: Make a ton of money
by screwing people over, but be very grateful
for the opportunity to do so.

“Greed” comes from the Americanese word “charity,”
which means in English: Make insane amounts of money
as honestly as you can and donate about 1 percent
of all you have to save on taxes.

“Lust” comes from the Americanese word “chastity,”
which means in English: If you’re going to marry for money,
try to make it a sexless marriage so no feelings are hurt.

“Envy” comes from the Americanese word “kindness,”
which means in English: The US is the most competitive
country in the world and also the friendliest country in the world.

“Gluttony” comes from the Americanese word “temperance,”
which means in English: Put as much food as you can on the table,
then buy gym memberships for your family
so they can work off the extra fat.

“Wrath” comes from the Americanese word “patience,”
which means in English: Tell your kids they’re free to follow
their dreams, then get very mad if they don’t follow your dreams.

“Sloth” comes from the Americanese word “diligence,”
which means in English: You better buy that gym membership soon
because your scale can’t handle four digits.

****

Soviet Money and its children:

Communists are dirt poor,
and, therefore, have no sins to renounce.

“Pride” comes from the Communese word “self-reliance,”
which means in Stalinese: We don’t have any money;
we don’t want any money, and we don’t need
any help from our rich neighbors;
all foreign help is an anti-communist plot.

“Greed” comes from the Communese word “corruption,”
which means in Stalinese: We don’t need an equality
where everyone is paid the same; we need an equality
where everyone is paid nothing.

“Lust” comes from the Communese word “commitment,”
which means in Stalinese: Lenin was so committed
to the revolution that he never had sex with his wife.

“Envy” comes from the Communese word “suffering,”
which means in Stalinese: We must take all possessions from people
and they’ll stop being jealous of each other.

“Gluttony” comes from the Communese word “appetite,”
which means in Stalinese: Those who starve today
will surely want to work for their bread tomorrow.

“Wrath” comes from the Communese word “wrath,”
which means in Stalinese: Anyone who tries to derail the revolution
will be shot on the spot.

“Sloth” comes from the Communese word “traitor,”
which means in Stalinese: Workers who demand to be paid for their work.

****

Communists and Capitalists make peace:

Money is the bible of capitalism
and the false religion of communism.

Money can’t turn water into wine,
but it can turn blood into blue blood.

Money is to red, white, and blue
as red, white, and blue is to green.

Money is to Reds, as Reds are to Whites.

****

Money is a flashy watch that says there are 80 seconds in a minute. Money is a woman that lies about your age. Money ages like cheap clocks traveling at the speed of light. If you push them off a building together, George Washington will hit the ground exactly when Benjamin Franklin does, even though Washington is much wealthier. Money is the simplest arithmetic problem and poverty is the most difficult equation to solve. Money was the world’s lingua franca even before the Swiss got their francs. Money is a fully automatic weapon without a safety switch. The right to bear money didn’t come from the Americanese doctrine of capitalism because even communists must buy things, but the right to throw people into a cage full of money and have them kill each other for it is a uniquely red, white, and blue tradition because only Reds kill their citizens over freedom of speech and other dissident activities. “The right to throw people into a cage full of money and have them kill each other for it” is an Americanese expression that comes from the phrase “profit motive,” which means in English “only do what’s best for you even if it means fucking everyone else over.” Since communists were always short of money, people were thrown into an empty cage and told not to kill each other until they built a worker’s paradise in which workers wouldn’t be paid. “Worker’s paradise” comes from the Communese word “Gulag,” which means “full-time employment” in Russian. A wise man once said: “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” A good communist once said: “The best things in life are free; therefore, capitalism is pointless.” The word “happiness” comes from the Communese word “work,” which means in Russian “the freedom to work 16 hours a day because you got no other choice,” which is actually a poor translation of the Aryanese philosophy “Arbeit macht frei,” which means “you’re fucked” in German. Some people are born into money; some people are born into poverty but they were really born to make money; some people are born into money, but they were actually born to squander it all; some people are born into poverty and they were born to stay there; some people are born to make a little honest money and take one vacation a year, but they aren’t born to start a family, or even marry; some people are born to make lots of dirty money, to get divorced 7 times, to have a family with each spouse, and to have 7 honeymoons in the Caribbean; some people are born to make a little honest money, to marry, and to have kids, but they aren’t born to see the world because they were born behind the Iron Curtain; some people were born to escape the Iron Curtain and make lots of honest money, but they were also born to miss their families and give birth to children who never saw their grandparents alive; some people were born rich behind the Iron Curtain because they were children of government officials, but they were born to value freedom more than money—so they spent all their money buying their way to freedom; some people are born to immigrant parents who come to America with nothing and give their kids only two choices: doctor or lawyer; some people are born to become good doctors and lawyers and some people are born to obey only orders and parents; some people are born into poverty, and, therefore, see the corruption of America; some people are born into poverty, and, therefore, see the corruption of communism; some people are born into American money, and, therefore, try to make society more equal; some people were born into Soviet money, and, therefore, tried to make society more equal; some people are born to steal because they’re born to be good at it; some people steal because they’re born to be hungry; some people also steal because they’re hungry for power; some people steal because they’re born without regret; some people steal because they’re born without choices. Money, you’re a witch’s concoction of suffering. You can buy hot cups of coffee in the winter, and cold lemonade in the summer—but only if you can afford it. Behind the Iron Curtain, money could neither buy a hot cup of coffee in the winter, nor a cold lemonade in the summer—even cold lemonade was scarce in the winter, and hot coffee was enjoyed in the summer. Money, would you like me to drink hot lemonade and cold coffee? Since you’ve already made cold coffee sexy, why can’t you work your marketing mojo on the hot lemonade? Money, you’re hot lemonade on a hot summer day. Money, I don’t want to be married 7 times, even if I can have 7 kids and see the Caribbean 7 times. Money, I want a divorce, but I also want half of everything you have.

 

About David Garyan

David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with (DISS)INFORMATION, a full collection with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He received a master’s degree in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage from the University of Bologna. He lives in Trento.

 

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series: Rooja Mohassessy interviewed by David Garyan


Rooja Mohassessy

May 2nd, 2023

Interlitq’s Californian Poets Interview Series:

Rooja Mohassessy

interviewed by David Garyan

 

Rooja Mohassessy’s poems appear in Interlitq’s California Poets Feature

 

DG: Your debut poetry collection, When Your Sky Runs Into Mine, was released to great acclaim and has sold very well. The poems are political in nature, dealing with specific topics such as the Iran-Iraq War, the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, but also general topics like immigration and discrimination. Can poetry be a way of coping with these events or is your main aim to bring greater awareness to these issues?

RM: My poetry is political in the extent to which political events touch or affect my personal life. Even the poem “A Muslim” about the Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka is a very private poem. It is about the way my mother, a Muslim woman, feels when she sees atrocities committed around the world in the name of Islam. It is irrational to feel responsible for or ashamed of these actions, but many Muslims do. It is a natural response. I am glad the poems are proving to be a good example of how the personal is political.

DG: You have dedicated When Your Sky Runs Into Mine “for the women of Iran, its true warriors.” Who are some of your favorite Iranian women writers, and, in addition, what message do you have for the activists in their quest for freedom?

It would be presumptuous of me to have a message for the women of Iran. They are the ones risking their lives. For forty-five years they have put up with brutality and oppression at the hands of a patriarchal regime with narrow, antiquated interpretations of Islam. The women of Iran are forward thinkers and at the forefront of the current opposition movement. I follow their plight primarily as a woman, and then as an Iranian woman living in the diaspora. I am not surprised that that they have not succumbed to the brainwashing tactics of the current regime. Whatever the shortcoming of the reign of the Pahlavi Monarchy, it was a time of tremendous progress for women’s rights in Iran.

DG: As you write, the majority of poems in When Your Sky Runs Into Mine, “were inspired by the art of my uncle Bahman Mohassess (1931-2010). Can you talk more specifically about his influence on you, why art and poetry are indeed so closely linked, and which of his paintings affected you most profoundly?

RM: My poems stand on their own as they pay homage to Mohassess and his art. A good number of the poems in the collection explore our relationship. Some are addressed to him, at least one is in persona, from his vantage point. His New Year gift to me of a pastel drawing of a fawn playing the flute (image below) is perhaps the work I cherish most. The pinks and blues in this piece are an unusual color palette for Mohassess.  He used to say of me that I only saw the good in people. Perhaps the pastel hues were for my benefit, a window into how he imagined I experienced the world. And of course, we grow into the vision of those who love us.  The poem I wrote in response to this piece is not included in When Your Sky Runs Into Mine. Maybe someday I will publish it.


B. Mohassess, 1990. Pastel on paper

DG: You left Iran on the eve of the war with Iraq. Can you describe some of the emotions you felt and do you see yourself ever returning to the land, which, to this day, is the heir to Hafez, Omar Khayyam, Ferdowsi, Nizami, and the countless great Persian poets of that time?

I left the country four years into the Iran-Iraq war. The first two sections of the book, I would even go so far as to say the entire collection is my recount of that experience. Poetry has been my safe space for exploring these memories. As to returning to Iran, I am entirely open to living in Iran.

DG: When Your Sky Runs Into Mine begins and ends with an image of stepping out—of going from one place to another (“off the pedestal onto the grass,” and the act of applying kohl before going out). In this sense, the collection begins with the general topic of Iranian politics and ends with a very specific poem dedicated to your great-grandmother Khanoom. Two questions: Can you briefly talk about how the Iranian diaspora has been affected by recent events, as opposed to those who, in a sense, have not stepped out of the country?

I cannot speak for the Iranian diaspora. However, I can say that many, not only Iranians, around the world have mobilized to support the women-led movement Zan, Zendegi, Azadi in Iran. The media coverage has been varied. I, like many, receive news of the happenings in Iran through social media and through relatives. And of course, like many, I am hopeful and watching.

DG: Often politics and sometimes art, even, fail to bring us together. What we have left is food, and even here issues are contested. Nevertheless, food is the one culture we must all partake in. If you had to recommend one Persian dish, which one would it be?

I enjoy good food from all cultures. I love the Jamaican dish Ackee and Saltfish which, for me, tastes very similar to Mirza Ghasemi, a dish from the Caspian region of Iran where my uncle was from. His version did not include tomatoes. The dish is made of four simple ingredients, garlic, turmeric, eggplant, and egg. But good luck making a good one! My uncle was an excellent cook. By his standards, I never mastered the Mirza Ghasemi. I can make a good spaghetti Carbonara though, which is another dish he taught me.

DG: Do you already have a sense of how your next collection will begin, or is it still too early to think about that?

I don’t have a particular project. I write about whatever I am moved by, something in the garden, on the news, a memory. Though at the moment I have been writing in response to the unrest in Iran.

DG: What are you reading or working on at the moment?

I am reading “unHistory” by Kwame Dawes and John Kinsella, “The Water Between Us,” Shara McCallum’s first collection, and “Everybody’s jonesin’ for something” by Indigo Moor.

 

 

About Rooja Mohassessy

Rooja Mohassessy is an Iranian-born poet and educator. She is a MacDowell Fellow and an MFA graduate of Pacific University, Oregon. Her debut collection When Your Sky Runs Into Mine (Feb 2023) was the winner of the 22nd Annual Elixir Poetry Award. Her poems and reviews have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Poet Lore, RHINO Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, CALYX Journal, Ninth Letter, Cream City Review, The Adroit Journal, New Letters, The Florida Review, Poetry Northwest, The Pinch, The Rumpus, The Journal, and elsewhere.