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The Literary Groong - 08/09/2003

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	MULBERRY TREE
	for Khosrov

	(This poem is dedicated to my paternal grandfather,
	whose life has been a source of inspiration for me.
	He is a true survivor, a builder, a patriot and
	today he is more beautiful than ever).  

	By Shushan Avagyan

	This was his first tree
	planted in 1936, after the Soviets
	allotted a piece of land in the city,
	after the collective took over his family's
	house in the village, farmland and cattle,
	after his father was taken away
	as a kulak - the enemy of people
	Stalinists called,
	after his brothers' exile to Northern Russia:
	an orphaned youth seeking asylum from 
	the bloody hunt of a system gone wrong.

	Urbanization, they said, is key to progress.
	But he had a penchant for his garden
	in the country, in Zangezur.

	This was his mulberry tree,
	caressed by the native tune,
	that withstood a treacherous WWII,
	the dark Gorbachev years of 
	Sumgait, the blockade, no water,
	no electricity, no bread, people lined
	up for kerosene in Yerevan,
	his first tree -
	that let him cut off branches
	to warm up the house in 1993.

	Ninety-two years older
	he sits underneath a lonesome
	tree - hunched, but fulfilled
	in a post-Soviet Renaissance dream,
	reflections of a garden in his eye -
	the trunk has lost its thickness
	and the leaves are not so dense,
	but the fruit tastes the same white
	luscious sweetness on his lip
	subtle like the memories
	of the village mulberry wine.


--
Shushan Avagyan was born in Yerevan, Armenia.  She is currently
working on her master's degree in English Literature, and is a
recipient of the Dalkey Archive Press fellowship at the Illinois
State University.

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