For the Sake of Argument

For a whole month corpses were observed floating down
the River Euphrates nearly every day, often in batches. . . .
— from the account of a German missionary

Say that nothing
happened in 1915

no massacres in Zeitoun
no Van or Kharpert

no wild dogs lapping
at the throats of the dead

say there were no eyewitnesses
no missionaries in the mountains of Kars

no death caravans
winding through the streets

say there were no consuls at the window
hearing the cries

say nothing occurred
none of it a matter of public record

no million dead or million more
scarred into silence

say nothing happened
no one heard

and say the hunger deserts
were empty of all the voices

and the rivers of thirst
were flowing like other rivers

without memory now
of any of it

—Gregory Djanikian

Gregory Djanikian was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of Armenian parentage. He came to the United States when he was 8 years old and spent the remaining years of his childhood in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

[Research note: Gregory Djanikian, So I Will The Ground (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007), p. 30.]

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Prayer on the Threshold of Tomorrow

Look. New sprouts push through the fields.
But which are thorns and which wheat
I do not know. Perhaps to the appetite
that is sated, all is chaff,
while to the hungry all is wheat.

Undistinguishable sounds, blows, footfalls,
thud in the distance, an agonizing attack,
where the oppressed plant red
flames with their blood.
And the rains sweat and expand
into floods that shake the walls
of the oldest dams.

Lord, now is the time to send
your wisdom and kindness
to the tortured who, although
they have forgotten, need you as they hurl
themselves closer to the precipice.

Oh, God, who trimmed the wick of the mind
and poured the oil of life, do not let
your lamps be overturned.
Let them illuminate paths to your truth.

Plant love in the eyes of today’s
And tomorrow’s mighty. Do not let
their hearts close.

And do not let the hearts of the child
and the aged be strangers
to tenderness and hope.

Let the struggle of our time be short.
Let it be settled with justice.

Let the fortress of egos,
that huge barricade,
crumble. And let every treasure
go to every man. Let every garden
gate be open. But let no flower be crushed.
No single branch fall.

— Vahan Tekeyan
(Trans. by Diana Der Hovanessian)

Armenian poet Vahan Tekeyan was in Jerusalem on business when he received news of the murder of 1.5 million Armenians under the Young Turk government. He lived in exile in Cairo until his death in 1945.