Monday, April 03, 2006

The Sea Scene on my Mother's Day

For Clarice who read this first

I do not know if all men and women die the same way

Waiting and hoping she would be coming home
I was certain the doctors were entirely wrong

She lacked any signs of a wasting disease
She’d never smoked – a teetotal almost by birth

She looked so healthy and Confucian wise
Only a little old

Mah-mah Ho-kiss * used to banter with me
Pour frequently freezing water over my magisterial confidence

“ Son, tell me, now!
At this very moment, what’s in my heart?
How would you know it? ”

Her mind was in her heart – that much I knew
“ Who can tell what’s in anybody’s mind? ”

As on earth, so in their vision of the Underworld
The ancients thought of the Sea and its shore as a metaphor
The dreaded Charon transported the dead souls ‘to the other shore’

Little did I know how right and true the old Greeks were!

I had feared death mortally
Would change my path to avoid
A funeral cortege on its way to the seaside…

“ When do you think I can take her home, Nurse?
Shall we call for a taxi? ”

“ Will you not understand, good Professor
Your mother is dying, No! She’s not going home! ”

The Irish male nurse burst the shores of his temper
Flooding me with furious oceanic anger

“ No, Prof., you won’t be taking her home ”
He repeated and rubbed tons of sea-salt in my just-wounded soul

I trusted my sister alone and she was dead silent…

Okeanus the classical Greek Titan
Encircled the known world like a belt
Overhanging a fat man’s beer belly

The father of all earthly water was a mother too…

My sister Ar-sineh of Montreal thought I was mad
Cracking camp jokes, babbling of ancient Greeks

Mah-mah Ho-kiss was gasping for breath through an oxygen mask

It was the evening of a long day watching over her hospital bed
And I wanted to make her laugh

“ Mah-mah, Ho-kiss, tell me
What’s in your heart now? ”

Leaning over out of a fearful boredom
I whispered right into her ears my face very close to hers

In the past our cue for a Confucian joke…
But she was not laughing this time

Dead worried I repeated my Armenian catchphrase
Mah-mah Ho-kiss in-dzi ehs-say +

“ I’ve nothing to say ”

The fury of all the fifty Furies chasing Orestes in Aeschylus
Etched suddenly on her visage through the transparent mask

She gulped
And choked on air

Mah-mah Ar-sineh Ho-kiss hold her Nurse help pull her up
She’s sinking in the sea

And the last bubbles of her universal breath
Slowly one by one surfaced from her unfathomable soulful seaful depths

Luce-tania she was and Titanic

The fiery chiaroscuro sun-disk at dusk
Floating like a feather down into Turner’s depths of an infinite sea

I and Ar-sineh left orphans on the shore
Dumb, dead, and broken hearted
Soul destroyed

How and what shall we could we must we tell Israel our father
Ninety years ago he’d seen his people a million massacred by the Young old Turks

What and how might we must we will we tell our absent siblings
Kha-tchik in Hounslow, Mar-karid in Paris, Mari-noss in Toronto

A gust of gentle wind
Her soul I think on the way out of Golgotha
Breezed through the hospital sea shore
Banging doors and blowing the ward windows wide open

A quiet rumble alighted in a quick flash lightning
Rain fell painfully on the panes outside for just a few moments

Was my mah-mah ho-kiss Christ’s sister?

The fear of death had almost killed me
Until the day I saw the scene of my Mother’s Day
When the titanic Okeanus sank my mother’s ship

Death the Reaper rapes all life before it

Do not avoid your parents’ death my child

Witnessing their passing away at life’s seashore
Shall give you the courage you need

To survive in sanity in a world harvested
Regularly by God’s own very Rapist

* Armenian, translates my mother, my soul

+ Armenian, translates my mother, my soul, tell me! – The Indo-European root of the Armenian verb “ehs-say-l” (infinitive form) is indeed cognate precisely with the English verb to “say”.


At 1:52 AM, Blogger Clara Stephens said...

Oh Professor Pilikian you have done it again. I just love reading your work. You are absolutely a true poet, a natural poet. I felt your pain, your sadness.
"her mind was in her heart" To me that means her mind and all her reasoning power was rooted in love.
"was my Ma-ma Ho-kiss Christ's sister?" Wow! Very few poeple comprehend that we are all the siblings of Christ.

So much to say professor. I would love to chat further over a late dinner, if you can be in London next week get intouch, I know a great little restaraunt my treat! Can't wait.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Viken L. Attarian said...

I read it and liked it a lot.

I think that it speaks viscerally about human consciousness, mainly as to how to come to terms with the issue of its own finality.

We cannot comprehend the meaning of life until we bury our own ancestors and parents. With the realization of their death, we finally grow up.

In a sense that is why war is obscene, it reverses the natural order of things. Parents bury their children; no matter how old they are, the latter actually never get the chance to really grow up and face their own condition. War is ulitmately always about child-soldiers killing other children.

Since the poem is also about my own grandmother, the personal dimension adds another layer of meaning. What was unusual is that the poem took me from the universal to the personal, instead of the usual other way round. It spoke to me as if I was a total stranger.


Post a Comment

<< Home