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TO AVETIK ISAHAKIAN By Shushan Avagyan She sent you nine love letters, nine granules, nine seeds from a pomegranate, nine warm teardrops melting in your palm - Unopened, in stamped envelopes they sprouted and grew long hair waiting in patience on your bureau, while you were in Europe, sampling the best schools, mingling with the best minds, the intelligentsia in Leipzig: `Dear brother, in your eyes - an impenetrable night, how many dainty images are still imprinted?' While she had hardly finished her Arghutian seminary, while she begged her father to let her go abroad, while she was only twenty-one and already bereft of a choice: `Her beautiful face turned ashen - dumb with scare, as they took to the altar.' Then you know the rest - `Wearied from incessant pregnancies, to the Saint's shrine she had come - sterility - her plea.' When you saw her in Rostov, in 1907, she was fecund with her own shamanic witchcraft, she told you so - `Demon or Angel' - and you hardly believed it yourself. Were you then in love, or disappointed perhaps, even jealous in your black European starched suit, that her power to will was greater than yours - how first you spoke to her of Dante and coaxed brazenly: show me yours - I heard you write! But were you surprised, disappointed perhaps, or madly falling in love, when she refused to read. `The last time I saw her . . . ' she had become an enigma - these are your words, `a sibyl - slender, tall, strong, with phosphorescent eyes.' But, dear brother, she was so poor, she was so ill, she was so unkempt, she was so alone. Dear brother, you were so privileged, you were so cultivated, you were so free - yes, she wanted to, be. `Come, dear brother, come my kin, let me quench this thirst of homeland from you, let me flutter once, let me fly away freed from this morbid nest of my exiled days.' She embraced you, you kissed her hair. The dark sky witnessed an eclipse. In the midst of unfathomable sorrows and oceans of grief, you let go of her, you let her slip away. ### This piece is dedicated to Shushanik Kurghinian, referencing her poem to Avetik Isahakian and their meeting in Rostov. Isahakian recounted the meeting in his book of memoirs [Yerkeri zhoghovatsu]: `The last time I saw her [ . . . ] she left the impression of an enigma: a true Sibyl, a sorceress, an oracle -- slender, tall, strong, with phosphorescent eyes -- completely isolated from a family setting. The room was a mess, utterly untidy and in need of housekeeping. She was absorbed in her thoughts, poetry, dreams and books . . . The idea of marriage or family was not for her, nevertheless, she was a loving mother and knowing that her calling was elsewhere, she was miserably suffering from this tragedy. [ . . . ] I remember vividly, she stood in front of the lamp, the light falling on her hair, uncombed and disarranged. She was reading from her poems, which later were included in Arshaluisi ghoghanjnere [The Ringing of Dawn]. I was tense, completely moved by her pathos. When she finished, I approached her, kissed her hand, she embraced me and we kissed as kindred spirits.' -- Shushan Avagyan was born in Yerevan, Armenia. She is currently working on her master's degree in English Literature, and is a recipient of the Dalkey Archive Press fellowship at the Illinois State University.