Arthur Kayzakian is a poet, editor and teacher who lives in California. He was born in Tehran, Iran. His family sought political asylum in London when he was three years old to escape the Iranian Revolution. He earned his MFA from San Diego State University. He is a contributing editor at Poetry International. His chapbook, My Burning City, was a finalist for the Locked Horn Press Chapbook Prize and Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize. He is a recipient of the Minas Savvas Fellowship, and his poems and translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from several publications including Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, Poetry International, Chicago Review, Locked Horn Press and Prairie Schooner.
What Forever Otherwise Will Hurt
I’m thinking of friendship. The homies. Your buzzcut goatee
punctuated by the garlic sizzling in the pan after your mother calls your name.
I’m thinking of the block that raised us.
How we raised ourselves off the street into the way grownups live.
Our code was hand language. A slanguage of daps:
Palms clapped together. Fists full of handshakes. Graffiti emblems.
You might recall the fall we balled at velvet-roped night clubs,
or the time we called Triple A to tow our drunk asses back to my house.
We roiled the nights out with our grease until there was nothing left to burn,
until we burned everything between us.
I wonder where sadness goes when it simmers?
Like chopped onions in a bowl of olive oil over the stove,
or maybe it wafts like the thick drift of garlic bubbling in your mother’s pan.
I remember. The same smile. The same jokes.
The familiar scratch of seasoning wafting from your kitchen
with a smell so pepper it stung tears down our eyes.
Armenian Folk Dance, 1915
A man and woman hide in their
home to dance amid lit candles.
He kneels as she
twirls around him.
She raises both arms in the half-
light, and the shadow of her
a bird in flight—brushes the wall.
If this were any other day, she
would clap to the beat of the
She tip toes to keep quiet
from the crows outside the window
crucifixes that go on,
row after row.
*first published in Prairie Schooner Spring 2020