Lory Bedikian


My father said there were no other
words like the compound words
in the Armenian language.

For example, jahgahdahkeer, which means
fate, destiny. If you break the word
apart, jahgahd means forehead, keer

means letter, letter of the forehead,
or the writing on the forehead,
meaning fate, destiny may be allies.

There is something both beautiful
and terrifying of the thought of words
left there above the brows, below

the hairline, untamable, unpredictable.
If it appeared to us, would it say
divorce, drop-out, theft, early death

or seventy years of the same meaningless work,
modern-day hermit, or worse, mother of five who
dreamt of the ballet every noon, heart attack?

Would his have said, minister, misery,
could have made it to ninety, if things
became cobblestone, cash, courage?



Jagadakeer in Armenian
literally means forehead-letter
or perhaps the letters
the forehead illuminates.

My father would correct me,
the writing on the forehead.
To be the master of what’s
coming, supernatural or not.

I hear my father say
the word providence,
speak of decrees of nature,
this is where his voice becomes

bass and tenor at once,
glorious vibrato for variation,
he declares that to embrace
the mysteries of the universe

you must be able to gaze
at hill and hummingbird
simultaneously. Panoramic.
Neptune and nest. Father,

at birth the word illness
must have been written
above my brows. Could it be
that the wrinkles now

are cross-outs? Where you
are now, do you see my rage,
sentences, printed or peerless
the test results strewn about?

Father, like my health,
could you cause reversal,
even if for a moment,
to stand at the front door

scent of coffee and pear,
eyes as amethyst, magnifying glass,
storm, brilliant igneous father,
wasted genius, brokenhearted

hidden man, come back,
pontificate. I’d like to show
you how things vanished.
I’ve written, unheard of, words.

Father, Baba, why do I try
to rebuild your story?
Can the body be rebuilt
if the story can do the same? 



             with contrast:

Amor Fati. To remember the tin

shack, the tent. Embrace embers.

To love your fate seems a bit

like loving the wrong and right

of each morning, adoring pantheons

that don’t bend, demons that don’t

turn motifs from stone to saffron.

When you are a mother

the day reigns as a tyrant

the night a mental scourge.

Two uncles as poets. Syria the muse

of one, books the sulfer of pages.

The other, black ink, a long corridor

from 1975 strewn across balconies.

Talented men, men with notebooks

brass lamps lit at nightfall, always

broken. But what of the women,

the aunts? Was there not just one

who yearned for her voice beyond

the folksong, the hum above dishrag

wrung dry? If we go beyond a widow

embroidered. Threads to stabilize

a refugee’s insomnia. Work toward

the morning, the school clothes,

the bazaar to raise money.

I went from Hygieia to Anahid

because I thought birth language

might be essential. The sounds

of Armenian, made of walnut,

apricot, cuneiform to monk.

My father held morphology,

syntax over a glass table,

telling me not to shatter

anything until I knew sounds.

Mother knew only syntax

of birth and bread, expected

nothing further except on

her deathbed. I can’t find

a cure speaking an ancient

tongue that isn’t mine. So,

I sing sharagan, folksong to

answer Anahid’s open eyes.

She uses the dream terrain

to send this: don’t think

the injured limb doesn’t

grow its own alphabet,

ambition, to re-anoint

frankincense with loss.

If I find the connection of

how it is one body develops

lesions, the exact moment

of injury, can all be reversed?

Because really, coins left

on the trail sometimes works.

If I find a microfiche of the

newspaper that recounts

the exact time when my father’s

family along with all the others

escaped Alexandretta to find

themselves in Beirut, Lebanon

1938 a nest of seashells, opening

of the New Port, can something

be remedied of my father’s past?

If I rub limestone and chalk

between my fingers, create a fury

resembling my missing you

can I reach the top of the anticline

the mountains between you

and mother, before you met

can I clarify why we never became

what we set out to be?