Narine Jallatyan
 I was born and raised in the city of Gyumri, Armenia. My childhood passed amidst ruins of earthquake, war, and economic collapse to form the luggage of bittersweet impressions I carried over to the other side of the Atlantic, to unpack and remake once in the house of adult life. I moved to the US with my family in 2003 when I was sixteen. I have learned the English language in Hollywood High School, after which I obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in International Development Studies with a minor in Armenian Studies. Having completed an MA in Comparative Literature, I continue my studies at UCLA as a PhD student in the Comparative Literature department. My research focuses on modern Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean poetry in comparison with the poetic production of the Armenian diaspora of the 20th century within the broader context of diaspora studies. I am interested in what poetic discourse has to say about past trauma, the inadequacy of language when it comes to grasping such a past and of paradigms of identity that go beyond rooting it in the past. My current work focuses on the Caribbean poet Edouard Glissant and the Armenian Diasporan poet Vahe Oshagan.  


The Dance
by Siamanto (1878 –1915)

In a field of cinders where Armenian life was still dying,
a German woman, trying not to cry
told me the horror she witnessed:

"This thing I'm telling you about,
I saw with my own eyes,
 
Behind my window of hell
I clenched my teeth and watched the town of Bardez turn into a heap of ashes.
The corpses were piled high as trees,
and from the springs, from the streams and the road,
the blood was a stubborn murmur,
and still calls revenge in my ear.
 
Don't be afraid; I must tell you what I saw.
so people will understand
the crimes men do to men.
For two days, by the road to the graveyard …
 
Let the hearts of the world understand,
It was Sunday morning,
the first useless Sunday dawning on the corpses.
From dawn to dusk I had been in my room
with a stabbed woman —
my tears wetting her death —
when I heard from afar
a dark crowd standing in a vineyard
lashing twenty brides and singing filthy songs.
 
Leaving the half-dead girl on the straw mattress,
I went to the balcony of my window
and the crowd seemed to thicken like a clump of trees
An animal of a man shouted, "You must dance,
dance when our drum beats."
With fury whips cracked on the flesh of these women.
Hand in hand the brides began their circle dance.
Now, I envied my wounded neighbor
because with a calm snore she cursed
the universe and gave up her soul to the stars …
 
"Dance," they raved,
"dance till you die, infidel beauties
With your flapping tits, dance!
Smile for us. You're abandoned now,
you're naked slaves,
so dance like a bunch of fuckin' sluts.
We're hot for your dead bodies.
Twenty graceful brides collapsed.
"Get up," the crowed screamed,
brandishing their swords.
 
Then someone brought a jug of kerosene.
Human justice, I spit in your face.
The brides were anointed.
"Dance," they thundered —
"here's a fragrance you can't get in Arabia."
With a torch, they set the naked brides on fire.
And the charred bodies rolled and tumbled to their deaths …
 
I slammed my shutters,
sat down next to my dead girl
and asked: "How can I dig out my eyes?"
 
Translated by Peter Balakian and Nevart Yaghlian

 


2015 Narine Jallatyan
Narine Jallatyan was a Featured Poet who read her poetry at the July 2015 Second Sunday Poetry Series