April 24: Armenian National Day of Mourning

Armenian crossstone. Photo: tinekevangeel.nl

Michael J. Arlen, Passage to Ararat:

A picture began to from of yet other fathers and other sons.  I thought of all the Armenian fathers who had been drafted into the Turkish Army in that year of 1914: men who were fathers, in dun-colored uniforms, shipped away from their towns and later killed; fathers sent to prison or else massacred along a roadside.  How many Armenian children had seen their fathers killed? Or–worse, perhaps–had watched their mothers and sisters brutalizd to death, or lose to death, in their fathers’ absence?  In that one traumatic period, how many Armenian sons had felt betrayed by their father’s absence–for what do children comprehend of reasons and explanations, what does a child understand in his soul of a father’s nonappearance in a time of need?

~~~

     For the first time in my life I thought I saw my father clearly.  Some little while ago, I had seen his face, with its coolness and authroity, its supposed impassivity, concealed within it the silent, helpless fury of that man in the blue velvet hat.  But it had taken me this long to understand where the fury had been directed: at himself, Dikran Kouyoumjian.

~~~

     I could feel Sarkis’ arms around me, his warm bulk against mine. I thought, Kinsmean, brother…so be it. I thought, We Armenians sweat a lot.

“Did you bring flowers?”  I asked

“Of course,” said Sarkis.

My wife and I each took a yellow flowers from his hands and tossed it into the fire, which consumed the flowers in its orange flame.

The three of us walked together, slowly, away from the Monument, along the narrowpath that led across the yellow field.  The schoolchildren seemd to be playing in the distance, arms and legs moving, their voices unheard.  My wife had her arm in mine. Sarkis was talking of the last year his father had been alive, when he and his brothers carried the old man onto the plain of Ararat and the old man spent the afternoon asleep in the field.

I wondered if in early spring the whole valley was filled with flowers.  I wondered if the snow at the top of Ararat ever melted.  It seemed hard to comprehend that there should always be so much life and death side by side.  I thought that, although I could never explain it it was true that I had somehow brought my father here. I thought, How long and circuitou the voyage has been that brought all of us here–Armenians forever sailing off the edge of the earth.~~Michael J. Arlen, Passage to Ararat , (FSG, 1975)

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About Taline Voskeritchian

Writing teacher at Boston University; translator (from Arabic and Armenian); prose writer; occasional editor; incurable wanderer.
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