Gregory Djanikian (b. 1949) is an Egyptian born American poet with Armenian roots. He writes about the emigration experience, in particular about the way the English language is enriched by immigrants. I read a love poem today:
Someone is walking up and down the street
crying “My lost love, my lost love!”
without shame or consolation.
On a day for columbine and lilac,
for hearing leaves sigh in the wind,
so many spring groves are in the making,
so many different orchestras tuning up.
My lost love: a refrain which scatters like bird shot.
How many of us have gone to the window
feeling the words pierce our morning.
In my room, gardenias once:
your body floating over me, my skin
rearranging like water under your touch
and your urgent heart, that loveliest extravagance.
Poor man outside, whose sadness
idles like a hearse in front of all our doors.
And some of us climbing in without meaning to!
In the way you held your neck,
Kiss me you would say: then the world releasing
its perfumes from the garden of gardens,
and the body speaking in tongues again
wildly without reason,
without any hope for reason.
The phrase ‘my lost love’ sounds haunting in Armenian, I am sure. I see the street and the crazy person running up and down yelling her mantra. The world is preparing to blossom but something is not right. The poor man outside is maybe death, as he ‘idles like a hearse in front of all our doors’ and lure some people in.
The description of the lovemaking that takes place in the room is subtle. An urgent heart, the garden of gardens, skin rearranging like water, they are all poignant erotic metaphors. The body is speaking in tongues, like a thick foreign accent. Maybe Djanikian likens the situation the body is in while making love with the immigrant who falls back on a way of speaking that comes more naturally. The hope (or promise) of reason is wildly ignored. Reason would assess the risk of losing the love and weigh it against the potential benefit, and of course destroys the possibility of ‘falling’ in love. Here it is not only reason but the very hope for reason that must be abandoned in a real erotic encounter.