Thursday Apr 18

Djanikian Gregory Djanikian was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1949 of Armenian parentage and came to the United States when he was eight years old.  He has published five collections of poetry, all with Carnegie Mellon UP, the most recent of which is So I Will Till the Ground.  His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, among others, and in numerous anthologies and textbooks.  He directs the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The Groove

Any athlete will tell you
it can't be bargained for,
though sometimes, you're one
miraculous rung below the paradise
you thought you'd never reach.

Even when you're mopping the floor
or raking the brilliant leaves,
you might be brilliant too, moving
as if you were all dance,
all Fred, and Ginger too.

And listen, you've been asked to speak
at the testimonial dinner, off the cuff,
but you're ok, you're in the groove
and the groove is doing all the talking,
one word licking the luscious next.

Isn't it time to crank up the tightropes
across Niagara, play your tenor riffs
on all the Bourbon Streets?

What a surprise to fall out of it then,
swinging at ghosts, tripping over
the least syllable, and here's a stranger
next to you at a backstreet bar
having a drink, tapping his fingers
in a way that shows you where it's gone

making him sound the way
you sounded months ago, if only
you could remember how it happened,

how you opened your door that day
and someone unexpected walked in
with an open ticket and a trunkful of clothes
and with no intention of staying.


My Uncle's Eye
              Alexandria, 1954

It had happened on a small Cairo street,
the shops smelling of dark leather,
the hookah parlors spilling out
onto the crowded sidewalk.

It had been a fight, someone
throwing a bottle at my uncle's face,
the slivers lodging deep.

I stared hard at that blind watery sheen.
I thought my uncle must live
a shadow life, imagining with one eye
what the other couldn't see.

I walked one day through the house
with my hand over half my face,
bumping into things, swiveling my head.

"Silly boy," my grandmother said,
knitting quietly in her armchair,
"what's to become of you?"

"Loony brain," my sister warbled,
twirling gauzily away like a ballerina.

But I knew my uncle would be arriving for a visit,
driving from Cairo on the long desert road,
and he would be making time,
measuring speeds.

And I was practicing how to move
the way he moved, skimming along
hazy edges, judging distances
by inkling, relying on some part
of the tangible world
without knowing exactly
what to hold on to,
what to let go.