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THE LADY IN GYUMRI By Knarik O. Meneshian Like feathers falling from a torn pillow, Snow flakes tumble Onto streets and walks, Bare trees, withered grass, dead flowers; Onto roof tops, telephone wires, and the occasional clothesline. In the frosty cold, Quiet beauty shimmers everywhere, And I remember the lady in Gyumri. I never saw her face Nor heard her voice. Did she laugh or cry much? Did she dare to hope or even dream Amidst the poverty and shabbiness That had become a rite of passage For many in that far away place? I never found out. While there, Each morning from my kitchen window, Doing chores, I only saw her milk-white hands and arms Opening her kitchen window, One hand reaching out, palm up. The weather did not matter, Nor did the day - There was work to be done. The same work in the same allotted time Each day - Because of the water. Just when the water came Ruled her day As well as everyone's in that city. It had become a part of her, A part of everyone - Like breathing. First, from her window She'd shake out a pair of little black socks, Big black socks, Little black trousers, Big black trousers, A little white shirt, A big white shirt, A slim blue dress with faded pink flowers, Three sheets, Three towels, A tattered brown housecoat, And some rags. Done at last, She'd slam shut the window As if to announce to the sky And the birds flying above, The sooty snow And crumbling concrete ground below, The widowed village lady Peddling her matzoon and milk, Even the barking, hungry street dogs, "I am finished!" Later, opening the window again, This time more slowly And with grace, To hang clothes, Washed clean by hand, On a clothesline Riding on a rusted pulley Groaning each time it was moved To make room For one more piece, And still one more. Flapping in the wind, The clothes on the line Looked like flags Beckoning... Now, as I look out of my kitchen window So far from Gyumri, I watch a bird Perched on the snow-covered clothesline In my backyard. It dances. Squirrels leap From fence to apple tree Nibbling frozen fruit, And rabbit tracks dot the snow. The water flows freely here. January 2007 -- Knarik O. Meneshian was born in Austria. Her father was Armenian from Armenia and her mother was Austrian from Austria. A writer and teacher, she is married and lives in Glenview, Illinois with her family. In 1991, Knarik taught English in the village of Jrashen (Spitak Region), Armenia. In 2002-2003, she and her husband lived in Armenia for a year as volunteers and taught English and Computers in Gyumri and Tsaghgadzor. Her various works have been published in American and Armenian publications. She has authored a book of poems titled Reflections, and translated from Armenian to English Reverend D. Antreassian's book titled The Banishment of Zeitoun and Suedia's Revolt.