Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

Aharon Almog

SAROYAN IS DEAD

Saroyan is dead.
An Armenian writer with a nose that protrudes in sadness.
The most Jewish nose I know.
At the Sha’arey Tsiyon municipal library on Montefiore street I
deposited all my savings for a selection of his short stories
and that same day I came back to get The Human Comedy.
The librarian scowled at me and said it was against regulations and I
brought him my uncle who was a welder in Yafo-Tel Aviv
hoping to strike fear into him.
My uncle came in blue overalls looked around and surprisingly 
fell silent, he thought and thought looked at the ceiling looked at the librarian
and said: Train up a lad in the way he should go.*
That was the most intelligent sentence my uncle ever spoke.
I left with The Human Comedy cheering all the way.
The coachmen on Herzl street saw me cheering. Toscanini the cop
directing traffic asked me not to disturb the residents’ rest.
You see, said my uncle, brother of my mother:
A gentle tongue breaks a bone.* 
That summer day of 1940 on 85 Herzl Street I got to know
all the Armenians in San Fernando and San Yehoyahin valleys, I met Aram
and his uncle Misak who like my uncle was a strong man, and Arak his son, and his
nephew Mourad and his mother and nephew and cousins and talkative Dikran.   
But most of all I was bound by bonds of love to Homer who always asked for
things no-one could afford: a fountain pen, roller skates, soccer shoes.
I too asked for similar things and got slapped across the face and so I came
with William Saroyan to the primary school in Neve Tsedek with swollen cheeks and
boxed ears. I sat in class, my eyes darting, trying to acquire wisdom and learning.
The English teacher went and told the principal that I was blinking during class.
The principal called me into his room and watched me for a long
while hoping to catch me in the act.
I stood for three hours not batting an eyelid as I imagined myself
running on the streets of San Francisco with The Saturday Evening Post
My standing there like a fool left a huge impression.
Posthaste I was sent to the psychologist
who sent me with a note back to my school in Neve Tsedek.
This is the right place for him determined the psychologist.
I did not return to the library.
Hidden forces romped within me.
I played soccer and sang in the Great Synagogue’s choir, secretly dreaming
of being a telegram-singing mailman. I had a soprano, God help us, a shriek
that denied sleep to the denizens of Nahalat Binyamin.
Then came years of decline with William Saroyan at the height of his ability.
In America they don’t like Armenians that’s nothing new, here
they don’t either. Just look at them those conceited hot air balloons
who read about love in books and their childhood was spat out by computers with
the salary slips. They’ve never heard of you. That’s what they look like.
A human comedy.


SAROYAN IS DEAD

Close

SAROYAN IS DEAD

Saroyan is dead.
An Armenian writer with a nose that protrudes in sadness.
The most Jewish nose I know.
At the Sha’arey Tsiyon municipal library on Montefiore street I
deposited all my savings for a selection of his short stories
and that same day I came back to get The Human Comedy.
The librarian scowled at me and said it was against regulations and I
brought him my uncle who was a welder in Yafo-Tel Aviv
hoping to strike fear into him.
My uncle came in blue overalls looked around and surprisingly 
fell silent, he thought and thought looked at the ceiling looked at the librarian
and said: Train up a lad in the way he should go.*
That was the most intelligent sentence my uncle ever spoke.
I left with The Human Comedy cheering all the way.
The coachmen on Herzl street saw me cheering. Toscanini the cop
directing traffic asked me not to disturb the residents’ rest.
You see, said my uncle, brother of my mother:
A gentle tongue breaks a bone.* 
That summer day of 1940 on 85 Herzl Street I got to know
all the Armenians in San Fernando and San Yehoyahin valleys, I met Aram
and his uncle Misak who like my uncle was a strong man, and Arak his son, and his
nephew Mourad and his mother and nephew and cousins and talkative Dikran.   
But most of all I was bound by bonds of love to Homer who always asked for
things no-one could afford: a fountain pen, roller skates, soccer shoes.
I too asked for similar things and got slapped across the face and so I came
with William Saroyan to the primary school in Neve Tsedek with swollen cheeks and
boxed ears. I sat in class, my eyes darting, trying to acquire wisdom and learning.
The English teacher went and told the principal that I was blinking during class.
The principal called me into his room and watched me for a long
while hoping to catch me in the act.
I stood for three hours not batting an eyelid as I imagined myself
running on the streets of San Francisco with The Saturday Evening Post
My standing there like a fool left a huge impression.
Posthaste I was sent to the psychologist
who sent me with a note back to my school in Neve Tsedek.
This is the right place for him determined the psychologist.
I did not return to the library.
Hidden forces romped within me.
I played soccer and sang in the Great Synagogue’s choir, secretly dreaming
of being a telegram-singing mailman. I had a soprano, God help us, a shriek
that denied sleep to the denizens of Nahalat Binyamin.
Then came years of decline with William Saroyan at the height of his ability.
In America they don’t like Armenians that’s nothing new, here
they don’t either. Just look at them those conceited hot air balloons
who read about love in books and their childhood was spat out by computers with
the salary slips. They’ve never heard of you. That’s what they look like.
A human comedy.


SAROYAN IS DEAD

Saroyan is dead.
An Armenian writer with a nose that protrudes in sadness.
The most Jewish nose I know.
At the Sha’arey Tsiyon municipal library on Montefiore street I
deposited all my savings for a selection of his short stories
and that same day I came back to get The Human Comedy.
The librarian scowled at me and said it was against regulations and I
brought him my uncle who was a welder in Yafo-Tel Aviv
hoping to strike fear into him.
My uncle came in blue overalls looked around and surprisingly 
fell silent, he thought and thought looked at the ceiling looked at the librarian
and said: Train up a lad in the way he should go.*
That was the most intelligent sentence my uncle ever spoke.
I left with The Human Comedy cheering all the way.
The coachmen on Herzl street saw me cheering. Toscanini the cop
directing traffic asked me not to disturb the residents’ rest.
You see, said my uncle, brother of my mother:
A gentle tongue breaks a bone.* 
That summer day of 1940 on 85 Herzl Street I got to know
all the Armenians in San Fernando and San Yehoyahin valleys, I met Aram
and his uncle Misak who like my uncle was a strong man, and Arak his son, and his
nephew Mourad and his mother and nephew and cousins and talkative Dikran.   
But most of all I was bound by bonds of love to Homer who always asked for
things no-one could afford: a fountain pen, roller skates, soccer shoes.
I too asked for similar things and got slapped across the face and so I came
with William Saroyan to the primary school in Neve Tsedek with swollen cheeks and
boxed ears. I sat in class, my eyes darting, trying to acquire wisdom and learning.
The English teacher went and told the principal that I was blinking during class.
The principal called me into his room and watched me for a long
while hoping to catch me in the act.
I stood for three hours not batting an eyelid as I imagined myself
running on the streets of San Francisco with The Saturday Evening Post
My standing there like a fool left a huge impression.
Posthaste I was sent to the psychologist
who sent me with a note back to my school in Neve Tsedek.
This is the right place for him determined the psychologist.
I did not return to the library.
Hidden forces romped within me.
I played soccer and sang in the Great Synagogue’s choir, secretly dreaming
of being a telegram-singing mailman. I had a soprano, God help us, a shriek
that denied sleep to the denizens of Nahalat Binyamin.
Then came years of decline with William Saroyan at the height of his ability.
In America they don’t like Armenians that’s nothing new, here
they don’t either. Just look at them those conceited hot air balloons
who read about love in books and their childhood was spat out by computers with
the salary slips. They’ve never heard of you. That’s what they look like.
A human comedy.


Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère