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THE ANNIVERSARY POEM By Diana Der Hovanessian The anniversary poem is a glass roofed railroad station flooded with false sunlight. The trains are empty, the conductors are dead, but real passengers are waiting. No, the anniversary poem is the mark of the teeth of the shark on the arm of the swimmer and the mark on the floating dismembered arm. And the teeth of the smiling Turk denying at the U. N. the existence of sharks. The anniversary poem is the flow of the river Euphrates 60 years emptied of the blood but still running over the stones in the mind of geographer. The anniversary poem is a caption under the paintings of Arshile Gorky explaining why his broken world could not be pressed into convention. The anniversary poem finally acknowledges for the 20th century its source of fractured art, the same source as Antonin Artaud's theatre of cruelty and the absurd, the world that could not be shown or painted or fictionalized except in excerpt and in disguise. No, the anniversary poem is made of steel and rolls on wheels through the streets of Erevan. It is the thread of the novel being written in Paris and the short story in California. It is the dance ensemble in Beirut and the skyscraper in Buenos Aires the symphonies in Vienna and Japan and the football strategy at Notre Dame. It is the political cartoon showing a sick Turk being nursed by an Armenian doctor nagging him to get well and pay his bill. The anniversary poem is carved on exiles' gravestones and granite library walls across North America. The anniversary poem is a test tube muscle flexing itself, the lens of the observatory, and the eye of the sculptor carving new horses for David of Sassoun. The rhythm of the poem is the same beat as the pagan round dance. It divides itself into two parts like the scattered people, half on a piece of home soil, half sinking into warm friendly swamps. The soul of the poem is the breath of the Armenian language being exhaled waiting to be inhaled. The heart of the poem is the Christian love that remembers obligation. It recalls Christ rendered unto Caesar Caesar's goods. It remembers forgiveness does not mean condoning thievery and death. The mind of the poem cries: Enough to anguish! It searches solutions. The anniversary poem is the shadow of walls holding all the courts in all the cities of the world. The poem wants to come out of the shadows, and asks a Nuremberg trial for 1915 so that with justice the word forgiveness can be pronounced. The anniversary poem points at the world since 1915 and says it is time that the legacy of 1915; dehumanization¯ be reversed. It contains no laments. It does not complain to all the TV-callous ears of the world, does not prod their conscience, does not point-out bought historians, warping facts. It says merely: "Finish with the art of dying, Armenians." The anniversary poem pledges itself with the free will of Yeznick, with the waters of Azad, with the flowers of Avarair, with the chains of Artavast, with the shrakans of Gregory, with the testament of Mashtots, with the testimony of the revolutionary heart to dedicate itself to Life. And being neither threat nor promise, ode nor eulogy, narrative nor song of a small man crying Akh, the anniversary poem names itself Question and Case, the question that every human must ask himself before he can call himself human. Copyright © 2001 Diana Der Hovanessian 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.