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FOR SERGEI By Mariam Firunts Sergei sat poised always in the sable, sultry Los Angeles evening Whose benevolent stars sewn from ivory tulle were the only elements Which did not threaten to devour him His silhouette traced in grey nicotine residue His black denim clad aristocratic limbs Into the sweltering Southern Californian climate Into the soot colored composition of the night. Spliced with a silk georgette skirt, Swaying, rustling in the inconstant morning breeze A five year old frame sashayed toward a building, Where they taught me only to forget In the evening, I gathered my silk georgette skirts as I reclined in the vacant chair next to him Folded them beneath me like a slip of paper Containing my history tucked in between The pages of an English textbook Sergei sat, his demeanor always majestic in the always sable Sultry Los Angeles evening, In the dominion of the moon Which was the only constant in An alien sky. A cigarette held designedly, outlining him In tomes of smoke He spoke in a language that was exiting My memory As rapidly as an airplane flying Transatlantic, supersonic across the sound barrier But the crackling of cigarette paper filled the Night with tobacco scented duduk music A wind instrument, on a night with no wind Only the vulgar refusal of the sun to put down Her martini glass and abandon the party When it has finished The Russian-Armenian dialect which had become to me as foreign as Damita was replaced with the language of smoke, And it was in this language that he communicated My history to me every night In the sweltering-sable-smoldering Los Angeles evening A history stored on the tip of his tongue In close proximity to a cigarette filter Bibliotheca used microfiche But he had constructed a different archival system >From painstakingly rolled paper and tobacco In the textbooks assembled from tar Were stories set in different decades Different aeons, but whose protagonists Were perpetually my grandmother Whose settings were perpetually Yerevan, Ejmiatsin Stories communicated in the smoldering Los Angeles sultry-evening The indigenous people of the southern plains Used smoke in feather festooned pipes to communicate with the supernatural; The past was supernatural to us We used smoke to communicate it. `Our memories are held together by an adhesive made from ice,' he said and in the arid afternoon acrid early evening, `Los Angeles is on fire.' Sergei in black denim Sergei draped in a tapestry of pedagogy Sergei silhouetted by an anthology of smoke-built pages, He was salamandrine. It was from him I first learnt How to live in the centre of a foreign fire How to withstand flame. -- Mariam Firunts was born in Yerevan, Armenia. She currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is working toward her BA in Comparative Literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Eclipse Literary Journal, Girl Wars (ed. Cheryl Dellasega), and the Claret Arts Journal. Her written work and photography can be viewed at www.thecinematheque.org.