Thursday, January 25, 2007

A tribute to Hrant Dink

Hrant Dink, an outspoken journalist and leader of the small Armenian community left in Turkey, was assassinated last week by an ultra-nationalist Turkish youth. Dink was outspoken about the taboo subject of the Armenian Genocide at the end of the Ottoman Empire, and was tried multiple times under Article 301, which has been used against many intellectuals, most famously Orhan Pamuk. The Turkish establishment's refusal to recognize the atrocities committed against Ottoman citizens of Armenian descent, and current laws that criminalize dissent, set the stage for this assassination; the ultra-nationalist movement put the characters into play. Both are responsible for creating a culture of intolerance that inevitably leads to violence.

From this tragedy springs some hope. Two days ago tens of thousands -- by some accounts, 100,000 -- marched in Istanbul, mostly in silence. Many carried signs and banners reading "We Are All Armenians," in the first large-scale demonstration by mainstream Turks for truth and reconciliation. It is my great hope that this movement will grow and mature, and that the far right will eventually be silenced by its own irrelevance.

[ click on headline for a tribute by Open Democracy, and links to more information ]

Sunday, January 21, 2007


turns to sleet

waves crackle down the beach
firecracker strings as the lunar year wanes
and the ferry in retreat
a great oil drum rumbling
its pistons humming angrily a dissonant song

turns to hail

tapping cracked clam shells
and palm-size stones.
hail like icy gnats nipping my cheek
but when I face the wind and waves,
lean in a little, the nip feels fine.

turns to snow

snow kisses my eyes blind
quenches my brazen tongue
and a solemn quiet unfolds

like water the moment it boils
as when the act of love is done
as when my chattering mind
slouches into sleep.

Skagit River rising

Swollen waters
silence rapids hidden underneath.
The river spreads beyond its banks,
turning grassy paths into marsh, indistinct,
erasing boundary between the river and the land.

Eddies churn in circles
and crows watch the eagles skeptically.

Warnings buzz around our heads—
the list of tasks, reminders shouted from room to room,
radio waves and newsprint chattering predictions:
The river will overspill. We scurry.

The woodpile by the barn, we tie it down
to stop the river lifting it, piece by piece,
to carry out to sea.
We move furniture, handtools and potted plants
to higher ground, beyond floodwaters’ reach,
and stop to make a pact
with neighbors: our hands are theirs.

Putting spark to fuel,
Richard raises a wand, throwing flame
across the kindling pile.
From beneath the burning wood, mice
abandon burrows, squealing
into a black-charred patch of ashes,
into open jaws of field and sky.

Mount Sauk, whose snowfall feeds the river,
lurks invisible behind the house,
behind the clouds we breathe.
Sadie barks. The air is cold and still.

Then the first fat drops
start a clatter on the metal roof,
falling heavy on our heads,
and the sky
has begun to sing
its ancient lovesong to the river.