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MIHRAN SAROYAN By David Kherdian You were not only the uncle of the man I most admired, you were also the uncle I longed for but never had. You were the jewel in the lost desert of the San Joaquin, in that city for which you and your nephew held the only promise for me, being your troubled admirer and friend. Like me you prized writing above all other human activities, and also like me you had done nothing about it yourself. Except to read and admire those who had. For me it was William Saroyan, while you believed that Leo Tolstoy was the quintessential man. Our admiration for them was so great that we nearly believed their greatness had rubbed off on us. We ate lavash, cheese, and watermelon on your country lawn, while I took down book after book from your living room shelf, continuing my education, that you helped to guide - neither of us suspecting that I would one day be a prolific writer myself. Those final years, before I broke into print, while you were being broken down by cancer and old age, were desperate, important years for me, full of loneliness, and depression and self-doubt. You could not have known, you could not have believed, just how important you were to me then. You put up with my madness, perhaps suspecting, perhaps not, that I would one day break through.I wonder now if you withheld this from me because you knew what it might portend. You knew, and you said, that your nephew became a writer because of his troubled past, and I could see that you regretted that he was driven to write, just as you regretted the childhood experiences that drove him to create something outside of himself that he could live for, but that had separated the two of you. For you knew he would never emerge from that journey to be the friend and nephew you needed him to be, that he had once been in the long unforgotten time you liked to tell about. -- David Kherdian's poems are from his 20th book of poems, forthcoming from Taderon Press, London, in early 2006. He has published 63 books in a variety of fields, including a Bibliography of William Saroyan, three memoirs, fiction, retellings and translations, a life of the Buddha, children's books and several biographies including The Road From Home, for which he was awarded numerous awards and prizes, including a Newbery Honor Book, The Jane Adams Peace Award, The Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and a nomination for the National Book Award. Also, for one of his novels, he was given The Friends of American Writers Award. In addition, he has edited nine anthologies, founded three small presses, and he has been the editor of three journals, including Ararat, Forkroads: A Journal of Ethnic-American Literature, and Stopinder: A Gurdjieff Journal for Our Time. David is currently editing a paper called The Tree, while compiling The Armenian-American Writer: The First Generation, which will consist of novelists, short story writers, playwrights, and poets, ranging over the last 82 years, that will also feature essays on these writers by as many second-generation Armenian-American writers.