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Poem | 'Ani' by Raffi Wartanian

April 30, 2018


By Lilly Torosyan


Poem | 'Ani' by Raffi Wartanian

"Ani" is a name I grew up around. It is the name of my sister and aunt. It was the name of a city I had heard so many things about, and had dreamed of visiting

Writer's name Raffi Wartanian

Writer, musician, filmmaker

City/Country Baltimore, Md.
About the writer
  • Raffi Joe Wartanian is a multiplatform storyteller
  • Through writing, musicianship, performance, activism, and beyond, he pursues stories exploring gravity, levity, and hope
  • His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, The Huffington Post, and World Policy Journal, among other publications

In 2012, I visited Ani from the Armenian side of the closed border with Turkey. Peering across the Akhuryan River, I wrote "Ani" to mark this moment of encounter.



Are you a city?
Are you a person?
Are you an angel?

Were you my love?
Were you my home?
Were you always baking softly in the sun?

When did the fortress start to crumble?
When were the churches scorched to earth?
When were crescents cut from crosses?

Whose eyes absorbed this unthinkable dismantling?
Whose voice was swallowed by the Akhurian River?

For how many centuries has that bird sung?
For how many revolutions will these bees swarm?
For how many miles will this vast chamber
Echo the dog bark, the church bell, our wavering voices,
Into the bottomless gorge?

Is man so stubborn as to think his questions matter?
That countries can endure?
That species can survive?

As our ruins shudder
As our population declines
As the black smoke rises over the minaret
    Chilling a headless church in its shadow,
Do we see ourselves in you, Ani?

Do you return to us as we honor you with namesakes and stories?
Or have you hidden forever
Behind the cloak of
History and nation,
Memories and myth,
As we helplessly try uncovering the mystery
And capture justice
In our dogged pursuit
Of something lasting
Something fair
Something ours? 

We as individuals
As a people
As a humanity
Bound by genetic hope 

And a vision of the future before our very eyes
In this fallen city.



26 Nov, 2020 06:22:59 Edited

An absolutely haunting poem, all things considered, and one that inherits a long legacy of literature devoted to that ever evasive “Ani” in the distance of our hearts and lands.


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