Back to Issue Thirty-Nine

Before the Elegy, Speak to Her


Zevart, before you decide to go

anywhere, let me construct a ship of books,

sailable & plenty, free of disease & car rides,

a ship anchored to everything & nothing,

Zevart of my birth, a name I will not

simplify for them. Let them say it.

Zevart. Zevart of rose petal jam & calluses,

your mother, a desert walk, her mother

hovering above sheep’s brain stew,

Zevart. Zevart. All I have left

of my first blurred sight. All that’s

left of my own name, its song —

leave now & I won’t find the impossible

argument of daybreak. Depart if you want,

but the phone will keep ringing.

Voice of Zevart. Body of Zevart.

Bathing Zevart. The weight of your body

on my arm, as if holding a country.

May you never read this, never learn

what I’ve done. A tradition never yours

this scrawled before it should be, your name

a drum, the only part I’ll borrow, and so,

Zevart. The rest can stay in their glass

cases. Remember how our folktales began?

Gar oo chee gar. Once there was and was not

a life we knew full of produce & price

tags, tell me again before you go there,

how you & one brother took James Dean

to be a god. Aleppo tired of you.

Your mother never done in the kitchen.

What is it now that I’m doing?

Did I actually think this would preserve you?

How can I close this, when a train could take you

through a tunnel, a bag of dates & walnuts

on your lap, sudden darkness while you chew,

snickering at what you were never taught.

What did I promise? Oh, yes. This.

Zevart. Zevart. Zevart.




Pandemic Tally: At Odds with May


Apologies, mother, that you had no funeral. It was too close
to call the priest. Shovel of dirt. Flowers. Strangers with masks
in charge of lowering the coffin. Cyber condolences. Incense.

My sons face the screens. My sons face a future without most
of the people I loved. The teacher calls on those who are fast,
fed what they want for lunch. My sons clench their teeth.

All the funding has gone to the birds. Beautiful creatures, gleaming
feathers, whose babies have their feathers combed by aardvarks
and stool pigeons. These fledgelings always get to bed on time.

Postpone the check-up, the procedure, the poetry of mourning,
there’s a pandemonium of voices coming from a white tower
full of more fowl. Where are they all coming from?

Bombs. Children and mothers die together. They didn’t get
a chance to contemplate as they did on school days. The forests
destroyed. Their husbands already buried. Conveyer belt methods.

I don’t want to talk about kin, kinship or cognac. It always ends
with maps, my father’s voice, my ancestors kneeling by graves.
I want everyone to stand up to choir it out. Even the dead.

There is no such thing as writer’s block. There is no such thing
as writer’s block. (Their favorite pencil was left in their usual café,
while the chandelier doesn’t give its typical, shrewd light).

Prison. In prison because they always wrote, even when they were
told that you are pissing off the guy in charge. The guy in charge,
when he was a boy they should have given him ripe apricots, pencils.

A reference to Donna Summer doesn’t seem to fit the tapestry. Don’t
see why not. Donna Summer lived in Los Angeles, she sang, ignited,
died. People still play her songs on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

Dad, did you find Mom? Before she died she wanted to hear Elvis Presley
sing I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You, but I don’t know if that ever
was taken care of. She never told me if she missed you.

An antimicrobial resistant infection is not an easy thing to take care of
when almost everything is limited, when almost everyone seems
daunting with their masks and no masks and deranged attitudes.

I hear Grant Green’s Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
while I wash another sink full of greens. Sometimes motherhood
is a well without rope or bucket. Even the blue sky still hunkers down.


Lory Bedikian’s collection The Book of Lamenting was awarded the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. She earned an MFA from the University of Oregon. Her work has been a finalist in the Poets & Writers 2010 California Writers Exchange Award and in the 2015 AROHO Orlando Competition. Bedikian’s newer work is published in Miramar, Tin House, The Los Angeles Review, Northwest Review, on the Best American Poetry blog, and Her poem “The Mechanic,” is included in the anthology Border Lines: Poems of Migration, KNOPF, 2020. Her work has been shortlisted for Ploughshares, appears in the Spring 2021 issue of BOULEVARD, is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest. Her manuscript-in-progress received a 2021 grant from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund.

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