OZHEET: A poem in memory of my grandmother

Yester Elmadjian, my dear grandmother who died in 1995

Yester Elmadjian, my dear grandmother who died in 1995

My beloved grandmother passed away in 1995; 25th October was her birthday.

I wrote this poem as part of my degree work in 2009 when we were learning about ‘glossing’ –  adding a note about the meaning of a foreign or unusual word in the text of a poem.

Gran (‘Medzmama’ or ‘Medz’ for short) lived with us in London for extended periods of time when we were kids. She was gentle, neat and meticulous in her ways. Her whispered Bible readings, prayers and stitch counting often lulled me to sleep.

OZHEET*
Made from love and cream silk yarn
(white goes yellow in the sun)
I am a history lesson in
the flickering of a pointed tongue.

Capturing her eyesight’s light,
her whispered count, a stitch in time,
I am the silk web spun to bind
her daughter’s daughter to the maker’s mother’s mother.

On a divan or table top,
I’ll show her status as a wife.
Heavy with hope, gossamer-light,
thread hooked round love and woven tight,
her heartwriting to keep for life.

*Traditionally, an Armenian girl’s dowry or hope chest, often containing handcrafted clothes and household items.

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Daughter Of The House

Spooky photo credit goes to my partner and photographer-in-chief Fred Shively - with thanks as ever.

Spooky photo credit goes to my partner and photographer-in-chief Fred Shively – with thanks as ever.

This summer, we finally connected with the owner of the lovely, crumbling villa around the corner from our apartment, and were invited to visit and tour the house. The house and Julia’s story were both stranger and sadder than we had expected, and I wrote this poem about the experience.

Daughter Of The House

As you open the carved wood doors
and step aside to let us in, darkness
falls into the sunwashed street
and we step carefully
over it and across the marble hall.

You lead us from room to room, where
only junk-filled boxes
bloom and dust flowers
flourish in the yellow gloom.

Under its vintage clothes, nothing
is alive, the very air and light were
trapped here years ago.

Then, out in the green froth of the garden you
morph from faded
old girl to flower fairy. You
skip up one flight of crumbling steps and
down another, you
pick me a tiny nosegay of roses, pink as young love, you
spill white wax stars of Russian jasmine into my free hand, you
fill my lap with lemons, laughing.

Back inside the house,
we’ve kept them waiting.
As you see us out, their shadows shift
behind you. Your sick, strong mother, your stern
soldier father.

We’ve barely said goodbye before
they are pulling you back, into sepia

We wave, smile and stumble
out into the clanging light.

Spooky photo credit goes to my partner and photographer-in-chief, Fred - with thanks as ever.

Spooky photo credit goes to my partner and photographer-in-chief, Fred – with thanks as ever.