Silva Zanoyan Merjanian









For years I’ve been a citizen, naturalized and neutralized

on a piece of paper. An immigrant with occasional diasporic mania.


You are my city, demanding and hungry, sweating in your earned malaise.

You are my city, in the morning as you crawl to bus- stops in melancholy rain,

and at 3 AM as street-lights mediate a truce with loneliness on sidewalks.

You are my city on the Pacific, allowing its tides to christen me at dusk.


Dear city of angels, last night I saw a picture of a Syrian refugee

carrying his child in a storm. The picture won the Pulitzer Prize.

I pretend I don’t hear him at my door, but the rain pelting on his back

leaks on my Palm trees and Birds of Paradise, flooding placid dreams.


Last night I saw a picture that woke me up in an old kitchen.

I was a child standing in front of a stove waiting for the milk to boil.

I felt the weight of the bucket in my hand when I carried it to our

summerhouse from the stable up the hill, fresh from the cows chewing

their cud with no good or ill will towards anyone.


Last night a picture woke me up in my mother’s dream. She was a child

standing in the kitchen, light from a kerosene lamp casting shadows on her fate.

I burned my tongue on her memories of the house that once was a French

canvas tent, of the malaria and dead newborns when Beqaa heard her at its door.


A picture woke me up with my grandmother’s scarf on my head, and

the piercing longing for the comfortable home and life she left and ran.


Dear city of angels, I am no one’s refugee but my own in this skin,

but last night I heard my bones like the clangor of chains and I couldn’t

rake the refugee grief spreading like weed on my tongue.

Last night I woke up staring at a bullet spiraling in slow motion. I was the bullet


that killed me a hundred and one times, my remains in metaphors in poetry

dust balls on book shelves.


I’m bleeding here, I’m bleeding dear city, in a coffin in someone’s fist.

Ask me again to enter your night where the birds fly wingless. 

Where your words wrinkled in folds of night-sweat wake every hour

to crawl back to your lips. 

Take me back to the old- town streets where we had a chance,

where fragile was beautiful and dawn was clueless.


I was the bullet that killed me a hundred and one times.

You were the trigger happy night.


I’m bleeding in a coffin in someone’s fist.


Dear city of angels, your streets know all my names, my many faces

and the white bones in all of my graves.  You are my city in the darkest night.

You are my city in a new dawn’s mouth, where I’m born again and again

a stranger to the past, a stranger to tomorrow’s light, with a pair of Made in USA

wings clutched in the palm of my hand.






I don’t know where to find you

I don’t know how to reach you

I hear your voice in the wind

I feel you under my skin


David Charles Pickell, Rick Allison, Lara Fabian


There will be time for this darkness

                            to evanesce from yearnings,

and hear your voice from memory

                            muting prattle of loneliness.


Time for  last sliver of dusk

                            to slide off edge of heaven,

as if a silk scarf slipping

                            off a woman’s shrugged embrace.


Once, I felt your breath

                            ruffling feathers of Odin’s two ravens,

like a breeze dancing Adagio

                            with sunflowers in my ribcage.


Had I not been stranded

                            in an imagined field of dandelions,

their necks drooping in this hunger

                            and the fading black distance,


I would have told you

                            your hands were swallows,

the sun kissed goodbye at dusk

                            back home in late October.


I will never find you,

                            wings crossed on your breathless chest,

nor will you ever see my eyes

                            foaming the waters at an ocean’s edge.






Someone left dentures

on a row of plastic chairs

at New York’s JFK airport.


Pink, wet, lost.


I thought perhaps it was a joke,

yet someone had no teeth

to chew freedom from the air,

he would have to swallow whole

a green card dream.


A stranger’s bite,

next to half an identity

I abandoned on a chair,

and an accent chewed ‘till saliva softened it,

with vowels stretched  to fit in your ear canal.


Nowadays, I love the way my tongue carries words,

slightly curved for your taste, your lips close on them

‘round sharp turns, between whispers, and fit well.






I did not weave Cedars’ last cry into verses,

as they scattered their city’s ashes into a sea, salted red.


There was no rhythm to pounding of hearts

squeezed in dry throats,

as the wind cauterized lacerations on rain and hail.


There was no rhyme to panic

among huddled bodies on the first floor,

drowning keening of stone walls

in static songs from the radio –


Bye- Bye Miss American Pie

played between breaths we held too long.


In any language this image dies on my tongue,

it mutilates itself and absorbs back into my blood.


California, I’m burning unwritten poems in a bonfire

on your coast,

I still hear Beirut crackling in the smoke,

but my eyes don’t sting anymore where words fall short.


I am carnage salvaged, reassembled on Newport Beach Pier.

From time to time I spit sound of explosions

from under my tongue, and watch it disappear in the tide.






I hear you loudest while it rains. When thirsty soil of California

holds moisture in its puckered mouth not wanting to spill a drop.


That is how I want to hold your voice, careful not to drop a whimper,

nor a herd’s rumble in grief, splintering wood panels in my drawer.


They say dust to dust, yet you are smooth, polished and cool to the touch,

tucked between a pair of socks and a favorite old tee-shirt. Two dried


pansies in lieu of a name, blue tissue paper in lieu of a grave, and the jute

twine tied ‘round you that chokes me until I spit a bitter promise; yes, I will


bury you one day, when the yellow rose- bush has grown strong enough

to hold between its roots, not just three shiny ivory bracelets left of you,


but all of you; limbs, tusks, the name your mother called you by, how

your friends remember you, shadow of Acacia on your back, memory


of a machete on your trunk. You are loudest when the moon kisses

my wrists where your polished tusks jingled and bled, jingled and bled.
















Silva Zanoyan Merjanian is a widely published poet who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. She moved to Geneva for a few years during the Lebanese civil war and later settled in Southern California with her husband and two sons. Her poetry reflects a little of what she took with her from each city she lived in. The nostalgia for her roots, her Armenian heritage, her deep sense of humanity reduced and elevated at the same time in life’s events permeate through her poems.  Her work is featured in anthologies and international poetry journals.  Merjanian was the guest speaker at Celebration of Survival cultural event at Ohio State University on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  Merjanian has two volumes of poetry, Uncoil a Night (2013) and Rumor (Cold River Press, 2015.) Rumor won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Fall 2015 for best poetry book by NABE, she has 3 poems from Rumor nominated for Pushcart Prize. 


Merjanian donates proceeds from both books and speech compensations to charitable organizations.



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