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ONCE IN A VILLAGE By Diana Der Hovanessian Once there was, and never was, my grandmother's stories began the way all Armenian fairytales begin: Once there was and never was, a village, at the end of the woods, a small village roofed with cranes and smoke. Once there was, and never was, at the roof of a mountain a village called Tadem, where everyday, a shepherd boy passed the house of a woodsman at the edge of the town. The woodsman lived there with his wife and little girl. And when the boy took his goats to graze, the girl would watch secretly from a window, making up names for the goats, and the boy. She was not the daughter of the woodsman and his wife, but had been sent to live with them by her real father a mysterious king, with a mysterious name. Once there was, and never was, a village with a shepherd boy, and a witch's curse. In this village lived a woodsman, his wife and an orphan girl who thought she was the daughter of a nameless king. Years passed and the king never came to take home his little girl and so she was sent far away to America to marry. And after she was gone the boy felt lonely and unwatched. But not for long because a strange thing happened. His goats, the school, the children, their teacher, the church, priest and parish disappeared in a terrible way. Too terrible to tell. One morning there was an Armenian village that turned into a Turkish fire. Once there was or never was a little girl who thought she was the lost daughter of a lost king who would go back for her and thank everyone in the village for taking care of her. He would thank woodsman, priest, teacher, baker, shoemaker, children, tillers in the fields for singing their songs to her. And she would go with him to thank them for being her friends. But they disappeared. Once in a village, a rooster crowed and no one stirred. Once there was a village With wild hedges, a goat boy who never grew up and a princess who never woke. -- Diana Der Hovanessian is a Fulbright professor of American literature at Yerevan State University in 1994 and 1999, she is author of 17 books and has published in American Scholar, Poetry, Harvard Review, Nation, Paris Review, New Republic, and her poetry is regularly published in the Christian Science Monitor. She has awards from the Columbia Translation Center, P.E.N., Writers Union of America, and the Writers Union of Armenia.