Tag Archives: Armenia

The Old Woman Of Yerevan

The Old Woman Of Yerevan

I stood in the kitchen,
up early to catch my plane,
to fly from Armenia,
back to England again.
It was mild for November,
no sign of snow or rain.

The silence was broken,
I heard a noise, far below,
a steady stroke on hard ground,
a slow scrape, to and fro.
Puzzled, I took a step,
looked down, out the window.

I saw an old woman,
sweeping dry leaves in a heap,
in the glow of a street lamp,
with her broom worked to keep
her city of Yerevan
neat while it was in sleep.

Her wrinkled face was calm,
she did not know she was seen.
She had made it her chore
to keep her city clean.
I saw the strength in her stoop,
that her mood was serene.

Sometimes when I am still
and silent in my room,
I see the old woman of Yerevan,
sweeping streets with her broom.

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From The Beginning Of Things

From The Beginning Of Things

Noah set a garnet stone
in the hold of the ark,
a red lamp that lit the way
through the flood and the dark.

He moored on Mount Ararat
when the waters were calm.
A dove with an olive leaf
flew to perch on his arm.

What a tale that survives
from the beginning of things.
The garnet stone shines on,
the truth of it still rings.
Sapphire beacons in the sky
stun the mind, clear the eye.

Noah opened his window,
and he saw the rainbow.
All his birds and animals,
he could now let them go.

He walked down the mountainside,
his family behind.
The beauty of the cleansed earth,
he could see, was not blind.

Noah held the garnet stone
to heaven in his hand.
It glowed fair as the rainbow
that leaned over the land.

What a tale that survives
from the beginning of things.

Eastern Heaven

Eastern Heaven

Come and count your woes.
Do they equal the number of your fingers and toes?
Are they less or more?
Or are you blessed to have none at all?
You remember it yet, the green garden was wet,
you felt the sudden splat on your scalp of a cold rain drop
that slid off the leaf of ivy and rose.

Now count your blessings.
May they amount to many.
Maybe only the grumpy
say that they have not got any.
A coin dropped in a wishing well
could be your last penny.
It may comfort you,
even though you know with the world as it is
your wish will not come true.

The eagle sits on the peak of the pinnacle,
surveys the lands below,
can see a hare prick its ears on the moor,
salmon leap the steps of a waterfall,
maybe even hears the fern and the yellow gorse grow.
Meanwhile, the snake and the lizard
crawl up the sides of the pit
from its unseen black basin.
If you think this a riddle,
work it out, if you have the wit.

The air of Armenia smells of water and stone.
If you are there you will remember
your first taste of a fresh pomegranate
plucked from a local garden tree,
its juice so good it cannot be described.
I think they must chew and drink them
in eastern heaven.
Walk the aisles of an English supermarket,
and you will not find them,
only those imported from places like Syria.
So you don’t have to ask why they taste rather dry.
Close your eyes, count the holy number seven.
Taste a freshly plucked pomegranate,
you are in eastern heaven.

Homage To Our Russian Washing Machine

Homage To Our Russian Washing Machine

We have mastered our Russian washing machine,
worked its controls to wash and rinse,
now we feel at home in our new apartment,
fresh as a cup of hot green quince.
Like the old Soviet time trucks and cars
that beep and zoom down the Yerevan roads,
it has a character of its own,
and we’re happy now we’ve programmed it
to do our washing loads.

Somehow it manages to continue,
it seems it will go on,
not just our Russian washing machine,
but everything that could be gone.
In that I find a comfort,
in that I find a hope,
maybe we will climb the mountain,
if someone lets down the rope.

As Long As Our Song

As Long As Our Song

You told me you had to leave your sinking ship,
that when you were rescued from your lifeboat,
you had almost died of cold.
Now I sit beside you on this park bench in the autumn light,
watch leaves turn yellow, red, silver, brown and gold.
Your captain could not navigate,
his crew were rebellious,
and a mighty foreign power would not release its iron hold.

We see a sparrow by a tree root,
its wings too small to migrate,
so winter it must endure.
Like any other person,
we do not know our fate,
our future is unsure.

Poetry brought us together,
a truth we find wonderful to know.
This miracle planted our tree,
now we can smile and watch it grow.

Your eyes are dark,
your skin clear and warm.
Our boat will find a lighthouse
when our path is broken by a storm.

No, the sparrow cannot follow the swallow,
the stork and the crane,
its wings are too small
to fly that far south,
so it must endure the winter,
here it must remain.

Some people don’t want us to get it right.
They’d prefer it if we got it wrong,
but as long as our song is in the light,
the sap in our tree will flow on strong.

Deer herds in winter
somehow manage to survive.
The thorn will splinter,
but the red rose will revive.

Noah and the Ark

Noah and the Ark

“And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.”
Genesis. 8. verses 4-5. King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Noah became a master carpenter
when he built the ark.
His sons beside him, he lit garnet stones for lamps,
red as pomegranate seeds,
so they could work on through the dark.
His tale is told, so old but still fresh to the young.
Children crayon it on paper,
those things they best remember,
Noah, the ark, the animals in pairs, guided up the ramps,
the rain, the flood, the raven, the dove, the olive leaf,
the mountain, the rainbow.
When they draw the event, the past is present,
time suspended, does not speed up or go slow.
You cannot own a mountain,
but you can bless it with a name.
Ararat remains.
On it they have dug for signs of the ark.
From the shelter of Yerevan,
the city built on the floor of its vale,
I have looked up to see its peak above its shoulders.
Impressive still.
Even without the tale, it looks a holy hill.
We wait for the return of the dove,
the leaf it plucked from the olive tree in its beak,
the sign of the end of the flood,
so we can walk down the slopes of Ararat,
to enter the vineyard Noah planted,
like him in wonder speak.

Muratsan Hospital

Muratsan Hospital

Muratsan Hospital,
I smile to remember.
We went there on the bus,
half way through October.
Leaves yellow, pale lime, red and brown,
hung limply on the trees,
twirled as they fell gently down.
The bus was not crowded,
so we could sit together.
Buildings from the Soviet time,
you showed me through the window.
Things must have been unnatural then, I thought,
with no wind or weather,
only the threat of twisted wire,
the blank cold of Siberia,
but the Republic of Armenia
is still shadowed by the bear of Russia.
To an outer suburb of Yerevan,
the bus took us, a poor district you said.
We got off at our stop.
You asked for directions,
and we followed where they led.
Muratsan Hospital,
we finally saw the sign,
we entered the doorway,
began waiting in a line.
It was not romantic,
it was practical and plain.
We were there for your tuberculosis test
that you had to pass
so your visa you could gain.
It was when we waited outside the X-Ray Room
that I smiled, felt we ought to celebrate,
for it convinced me we were a real couple,
we had walked through true love’s gate,
for that is what real couples do,
they do everything together,
sit together in hospitals, doctor’s surgeries,
official buildings, like everyone else,
they have to wait in the queue.
No, real romance is not just about visits to cafes and cinemas,
it’s about going through the hard and cold,
so thank you Muratsan Hospital,
you established us as a real couple,
gave us more than my lines have told.