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A Handful of Ash

Alas, you were a great and beautiful mansion,
And from the white summit of your roof,
Filled with star-flooded night hopes,
I listened to the Euphrates, racing below.

I learned with tears, with tears I learned of the ruins,
Of your broad walls battered down, stone by stone,
Onto your fragile border of flowers in the garden...
On a terror-filled day, a day of slaughter, of blood.

And charred is the blue room
Inside whose walls, on whose rugs
My childhood delighted,
And where my life grew, where my soul grew.

That gold-framed mirror is shattered, too,
In whose silver depth my dreams,
My hopes, my loves and my burning will
Stood reflected for years, and my musings.

And in the garden the spring song is dead,
The mulberry and the willow there, they have been blasted, too,
And the brook that flowed between the trees-
Has it gone dry? Tell me, where is it? Has it gone dry?

O I often dream of the cage
From which my gray partridge, mornings
And at sunrise, fronting the rose trees,
Would rise, as I did, and start its own distinct cooing.

O my homeland, promise that after my death
A handful of your holy ashes
Will come to rest, like an exiled turtledove,
To chant its song of sorrow and tears.

But who will bring, tell me, who is to bring
A handful of your precious ashes,
On the day of my death, to put into my dark coffin
And mingle with my ashes, ashes of a singer of the homeland?

A handful of ash with my remains, my native home-
Who is to bring a handful of ash from your ashes,
From your sorrow, your memories, your past,
A handful of ash to scatter on my heart?

About The Poet


Siamanto, or Adam Yerjanian, in his work and life personifies the ideal poet-as-hero. He was a popular activist and critically acclaimed poet. born in Akn, Western Armenia, Siamanto was educated in Istanbul and Paris, at the faculty of philosophy of Sorbonne. He traveled to Switzerland, Egipt, London, Vienna, and the United States before returning to Istanbul. Two of his collections of poetry, In the manner of a Hero (1902) and The Invitation from the Fatherland (1903), show his own interpretation of European poetic trends at the turn of the century. His indignation at the fate of his people, plus his incantational, ceremonial style, made him one of the most beloved writers of his day. He was among the intellectual leaders killed right before the massacre of the population in 1915.