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IALA x h-pem | I meet the gravedigger burying a soldier from Artsakh

March 19, 2021 - September 23, 2021

Creative writing

By Sarkis Anthony Antonyan


IALA x h-pem | I meet the gravedigger burying a soldier from Artsakh

“I Meet the Gravedigger Burying a Soldier from Artsakh" is a moving lament for a soldier who has died in the Artsakh conflict. Its power comes from the poet’s delicate handling of language, phrasing, an eschewal of hyperbole. One of the most striking images describes the speaker’s yearning to give the ability of speech back to the stricken warrior: "How is this the resolution of/an incomplete history? I have removed my voice box/and placed it/on your heart." It depicts a poignant communitarian gesture, a giving to the lifeless body a voice, a continued narrative. Also impressive are the opening lines of the poem which describe the speaker’s willingness to shield the fallen soldier by metaphorically staving off what will disturb him: “Please, let me swallow the rain/to save this soil. He needs a good home, a dry cavern/to sleep.” And finally, the tone of the poem, the understatement, the delicacy of utterance, indicts the ravages of war itself without diatribe or homily.

Commentary provided by YAPA contest judge Gregory Djanikian

Please, let me swallow the rain
               to save this soil.                He needs a good home,
                                                                      a dry cavern to sleep.
I will not
                            be long, I promise.
                                         His exoskeleton,
            soaked in military pattern,
                                                       must take one last
                           breath of the world around it.
Let me see the red on
                                         his chest one more time,
                                                                                   poked into 
the plush           like acupuncture,
                                                        almost deliberate.
                                                                       Do you know
                              who is responsible for                  this act? 
              If not,                                  I will tell you. 
It was like
                              this.      At home, we were glued to
the bottom of a well and                 stuffed with sand.
             And I didn’t know him
                                                          until the
stones around us crumbled.                          Do not drop him
               quick!                I beg for you 
                                                       to take my money 
and give me his gun.       Now the flashing medallions 
              on his chest darken,
                                                        the puckering ribbons
                            washing away without sound.       How is this
              the resolution
                                                          of an incomplete history?
I have removed my voice box
                                           and placed it
               on his heart.                                    Salted,
Now,                  let me say
                                         to him:
                                                                       You are missed.
               driven to the ground with honor.              Perhaps
this exile wasn’t fated by the stars,
                             but rooted           in the obligation of our clan.
Above us,
               the clouds swirl                gray and
                             inhale to accept the light.              The Sun,
a bead of hope in their curtains
                                          claiming the parting before it.
              I do not think this story                              is over,
will never be.                    I am hesitant but:
                                                                     here is our
farewell.                                         And watch!
                             See how
                                        this cavalier has
become a snowy dove,
                                                       rising through the ashes
                                        and sunlight,


Sarkis Anthony Antonyan Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School Chatsworth, CA 17 years old sakoantonyan0313@yahoo.comSarkis Anthony Antonyan
Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School
Chatsworth, CA
17 years old





18 Jan, 2022 06:51:08 Edited


Alicia Tufenkjian

Alicia Tufenkjian

23 Sep, 2021 19:47:05 Edited

Absolutely beautiful!! Can’t wait to see more his publications in the future. Go Sako!!

Alicia Tufenkjian

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Related Creative writing

IALA x h-pem | Introducing...the 2021 Young Armenian Poets Awards
Collaboration IALA x h-pem | Introducing...the 2021 Young Armenian Poets Awards

At h-pem we are thrilled to finally share the results of IALA’s (International Armenian Literary Alliance) Young Armenian Poets Awards!

Huge congratulations to the following poets (Listed in alphabetical order), whose works have been selected by IALA’s exceptional judges, as the winners and honorable mention for the 2021 poetry contest.

  • Sarkis Anthony Antonyan: “I Meet the Gravedigger Burying a Soldier from Artsakh”
  • Sofia Demirdjian-Lara: “I See You in the Jacarandas”
  • Lucine Ekizian: “Go Light on the Sweetness”
  • Natalie Abadjian: “o white” (Honorable mention)

We are proud to host the special publication of your work on our website!

Thanks to IALA’s vision, you can now add a new feather to your creative accomplishments and develop your potential for lasting fulfillment. Through your originality and creativity, you have each made a significant contribution to raising awareness about the undercurrents and connections that join us as Armenians.

“If poetry can reveal the heart of a people, then poetry written by some of the youngest amongst us can present that heart in the most honest and unadulterated way,” writes IALA Advisory Board Member Alan Semerdjian.

Enjoy Semerdjian’s unique window into the world seen through the eyes of IALA’s young contestants, then check out their winning entries by following the links at the bottom.

We hope our IALA x h-pem collaboration inspires readers to appreciate and care for fledgling poets — they invite us all to reconnect with the parameters of identity and belonging that sustain and surround us, each in their own personal and thoughtful approach.

IALA x h-pem | Go light on the sweetness
Collaboration IALA x h-pem | Go light on the sweetness

“Go Light on the Sweetness” shines in its subtlety. Rendered with vivid imagery, the flower — “Encompassing millions of / Beginnings, endings, / And middles” — becomes a vibrant symbol of memory, of the struggle between history and amnesia, of the compelling juxtaposition between the absence of remembering and the presence of not forgetting. Characteristic of the Armenian experience, that juxtaposition is universally human. By asking, “Does the honey cause a paucity of flavor?” the writer summons a flower’s sweet nectar to toggle between presence and absence; in this case, the presence of honey subtracts flavor. What does it mean, then, when expectations collapse, when the natural order evaporates like the steam rising from hot water? To that tension, the writer responds, “My moral compass spins as / I pour in the sweetness,” evoking a disorientation all too familiar throughout the past year-and-a-half of death, destruction, and deception. All that remains is the in-between. We’re caught in a nebulous space, an origin point between polarities that force us to find footing on the continuum of an uncertain world. And maybe that’s where we must take root — acculturating “in both worlds.” It is this noteworthy sense of subtlety and soul that makes “Go Light on the Sweetness” a disquieting and imaginative interrogation of the in-between.

Commentary provided by YAPA contest judge Raffi Wartanian

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