Armenian professors massacred by the Turks.
From: Amēnun taretsʻuytsʻě : zbōsali u pitani. (1921)

We made our way across the culvert. The few of us left who remembered digging it exchanged glances. The waters now flowed and tadpoles teemed in the ripples. We were close. We forded the last rise, the whaleback ridge that separated the forest from the sea. The forest that took so many of us. Swallowed up in the mazes of bristle cones. Caught in carefully laid traps made to look like comforting beds. Embraced by the denizens in embroidered cloaks who stabbed us in the back.

What does it mean to become a wanderer? It doesn’t happen all at once. At first there were stories of those who had been taken. They were worrisome, but easily ignored because they were not our kin. Until the day when one of our own was taken, torn apart. Then we saw the divide. It was stark and bilious and we wondered how we missed it. A walk to the market would take all the strength in our bodies. Our lungs collapsing as they filtered the molecules of hate, as we realized we had all been branded the dangerous ones. So we ran. All of us who had been marked. Those who left the bread to rise in sunny corners. The little ones who made dolls out of husks and collected leaves and stones for remembrance. The joyful daring ones who put out fires and sang in choirs. The pensive ones who mended the soles of our shoes and filled their shelves with books and golden bears made out of clay.

Years later we have returned; snatches of memory, the very fiber of our being drawing us back. We look out over the ridge. Everything still stands, a resting monolith barely breathing like a silent crocodile basking in the sun. We wind our way through the deserted streets, heading for the armory. When things turn barbarous there are those who try to reason, those who run and hide, and those who arm themselves for a fight.

Our armory was not a heavily guarded building. It was a cave where the fishermen stored their boats and wares. The weapons were gathered from nearby ports and stored in the hulls of our ships. And there they sat waiting for the revolution. But the revolution never came, for the wise ones among us took stock of our paltry arsenal and predicted slaughter.

And so we escaped. The weather became our new enemy. We crossed through borders into different lands where even the sky seemed segmented. Tried to decipher their customs. The children grew out of their clothes, and the elders drank from strange tea cups. We tired of being supplicants asking for the basics of existence. There were those among us who harbored regret that we never had the chance to become warriors.

And so we returned. We entered the cave. A gaping mouth guarded only by scuttling crabs and skinny love-starved cats. We wound our way, past the bright yellow nets and canisters of tar and pitch and climbed aboard the boats. This time we would rise. We would take our weapons and ring a fortress round the whaleback ridge. It was time for a new regime and we would determine who was allowed in and out. We breathed in the briny dampness of our youth and peered into the hulls.

The weapons were gone. Looted, stolen, taken away to purpose other killings on other shores. We floated through the streets and pathways realizing there was no one to fight. We had come home, but the houses we had built were stained with blood and even the once comforting calls of the gulls seemed piercing.

We returned to the beach and took each other in arms and wept for all we had lost. The strong ones dragged the boats from the cave and tarred the seams. We filled lanterns with oil and hung them from the prows. We climbed aboard the flat-bottomed skiffs and launched ourselves into the black night. When all we could see were stars we jumped. The winds and waves becoming our winding cloth turning us into whispers and luminescence.

Cynthia Boorujy

Cynthia writes scripts, poetry, and short fiction. Her poetry is included in the spring issue of the Italian Literary magazine, Open Door Review and she was recently chosen by the public art project Love Letters in Light to be part of a cohort of Los Angeles poets to provide messages of rumination and uplift concerning the pandemic. She resides in Santa Monica CA and is working on her debut novel.

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