Diana Der-Hovanessian's work has appeared in American Scholar, Agni, New York Times,
New York Herald Tribune, Nation, Poetry and in many anthologies such as Carolyn Forche’s Against Forgetting. She
is the author of five books of poetry published by Sheep Meadow Press and several prize winning anthologies of translations
from the Armenian.
must be an old guy by now
but he was the boy
in the next brownstone
on 91st Street
on our level
second floor, so
the dumb waiter
when the janitor sent
it up on garbage days.
Once he crawled into it
stretching out full length
to blow a kiss
into our kitchen.
My room-mate said
he waited after school
downstairs just to watch
me coming home after work
to say hello.
I wonder what de did
with his life. I wish
just once I had given him
Why the Mulberry Turned Red
My ancestors come from Cilicia, ancient Cilicia
(We pronounce it Kilikia, written with g’s:
Giligia.) And sing about the seasons there :
“When the year opens the doors to spring
in Giligia, my Armenian home.”
In the old days one of the first trees to
blossom in spring was the mulberry.
In the old days the blossoms and fruit
were white, white as the winter snow.
In the old days they were white
before all the Armenians were slain
and their mulberry trees stolen.
Then when the Armenians were killed
their blood stained so much ground
the mulberries turned red.
Oh, no, said an old Armenian survivor.
You are only half right. Half of the trees
had already turned red many years before
in ancient times…because of two lovers
Pyramus and Thisbe. Ovid tells us:
They were the children of two neighbors but
were forbidden to play or even speak to
each other. But they grew up talking through
a crack in the wall dividing their two yards.
All mulberries had white fruit then. And
they still do in Eastern Armenia, where
not much blood was shed. But this story
was before the time of the Turks.
Pyramus and Thisbe grew up loving each other
but always divided by the wall. Finally
they decided to run away together and meet
at the edge of town under a white mulberry tree.
In those days all mulberries were white.
Now only the mulberries in Eastern Armenia
are white, all others are blood red.
But to return to the lovers: One day Pyramus
and Thisbe decided to run away together.
They planned to meet at the edge of town
under the mulberry trees and go from there.
Thisbe got there first and saw a lioness approaching.
Frightened, she threw her cloak, and ran.
The lioness mauled the cape and left it
in shreds for Pyramus to find. When he did
he was heartbroken, thinking.
she was mauled and eaten by a lion
he threw himself on his sword and died.
When Thisbe returned she found him bleeding
and dying. She sobbed, she cried out, then
decided to die with him on his sword.
And from their blood the white mulberry trees
in Giligia turned red, and its berries forever after
stayed red . Then after 1915 all
in the west also turned red. Blood red.
2004-2011 the Dublin Quarterly--to see familiar things with unfamiliar eyes!