H.M. Merjian: Aleppo: 1915

“You eat the eyes first. Do you understand?”

In the large dish a boiled lamb’s head
In broth, “patcha” —lamb’s head soup.
The feast of Easter; Paschal Anatolia.

I dreaded the festival of the head,
This ritual of eating the lamb of god,
Leaving what simple sins my childhood
Offered, the mouth, the hot white bone.

“You can go inside for the brain, the
Tongue and strip the cheeks later. But
Eat the eyes first! Do you understand?”
“Christ is risen, risen indeed” and wise
My father, concupiscent bearer of the head
Slaked his hunger for his memory’s dead.
“Begin to eat my son, and begin with the eyes!”

(“The government of Syria…ordered them
To buy two more carts and haul the bodies
Lying in the streets to the burial ground.
Dikran went into hiding, and Puzant, at the
Age of twelve took charge of the removal
Of dead bodies from the streets. He
Did this for three and one-half years.”)
Puzant Gulesserian
1908 — 2004
Born: Cilicia, Turkey
“Removed” to Aleppo                           (Obit. Sept./04)

Mother called that Aleppo “home.”
“Djeehan-nam’een doon.” Home of hell.
“Airoun’od Haleb” — she would weep.
This “city of blood” sepsis and crucible
For the dispossessed and the dying.
Gehenna at the end of the bleeding desert.
The place they came to. To come and die.

“You eat the eyes first. Do you see why?”

I’m in a darkened room reading the
Notices of forgotten men who never were.
Who disappeared into the treachery of history.
Could it be that young Puzant pulled the death
Cart that held the body of my father’s terror?

You see, at the end of his life he said
To me, “Khletz inka” — they seized her,
His mother, on fire with cholera.

The whited pits, the whited carts,
Slaked lime, the color of bleached charnel.
In HEART Conrad speaks of “The Whited Sepulcher,”
Antwerp, where Hamid sat with Leopold the Mad,
Pillowed on the cushions of a million bones.
After Antwerp was Aleppo; before Antwerp was Aleppo.

He said, “They seized her that Easter…mother
Was dying of cholera, and I was too weak.”
And she was flung on the death carts,
Heaved under bodies, but alive; she cried.
And Poppa told me he last saw her
Look back at him, with fevered, lost eyes.

“You eat the eyes first. Come, come, you won’t die.”

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