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B r e a k i n g   W a t e r
Gazing upon personal memory and cultural history

 

She was a seamstress

She wore dresses

Made of sack cloth that

Previously contained flour.

 

 

Monologue

While breaking water, you muttered in distress,

It’s not polite to look up a woman’s dress.

Penitent, I found you in duress.

As I clung to your legs you continued to confess.

 

Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh

 

You walked from Kharphert to Izmir after the murder of Mardiros.

In exodus, you fled for your life with us three infants in tow.

A refugee, you lost your home, your land, and all your possessions.

Now, aside from us children, a sack and its contents were all that remained.

 

Hidden under your frock, the sack dangled freely between your legs.

With two strands of twine, it was loosely tethered around your waist.

Taboo, in your secret hiding place, no one knew its cache.

It swayed as you walked—back and forth—pounding against your thighs.

 

In moments of imminent danger, you scurried to a place of safety.

There you admonished us to take refuge under your dress.

To pacify us, you meted out dried chickpeas from your pocket.

Contrary to our usual chatter, only the muffled sound of gnashing was heard.

 

While breaking water, you muttered in distress,

It’s not polite to look up a woman’s dress.

Penitent, I found you in duress.

As I clung to your legs you continued to confess.

 

Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh

 

Upon approaching Izmir, you had a premonition, “a word from God,” you said.

He spoke to you about the contents of the dangling sack, “danger,” he said.

“Get rid of it, dump it, throw it away, lose it, it’s a threat to your lives.”

That evening you relived the Genocide in your dreams while camped near a river.

 

Against the churning of water, the pounding of your heart awakened you in the morning.

Gasping, gasping for air, you felt a chill shoot through your defenseless body.

Your hands trembled as you fondled the suspended sack between your legs.

You lifted the hem of your dress to wipe the cold sweat from your brow.

 

The potential danger of the sack weighed heavily on your mind.

Despite such ruminations, you continued to heed God’s warning through prayer.

Der voghormia, Der voghormia, Der voghormia, you cried for absolution.

Forgive me Lord, forgive me Lord, forgive me Lord, forgive me Lord.

 

While breaking water, you muttered in distress,

It’s not polite to look up a woman’s dress.

Penitent, I found you in duress.

As I clung to your legs you continued to confess.

 

Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh

 

Tired, hungry, and desperate, we walked all day until we reached the outskirts of the City.

An open window to a stranger’s house seemed to beckon God’s admonition.

As we passed by, you lifted your frock and untied the sack from your waist.

Held firmly in your grip, you quickly heaved it into the house and hurried away.

 

“What have I done?” you asked yourself as fear gripped your heart once more.

While catching your breath, you realized the fortune you bestowed upon that house.

The family jewels contained in the sack, were they a ransom or tithing? This was not clear.

You were now left with uncertainty and the possibility of defeat, your annihilation.

 

Early that evening, a large group of us Armenians were assembled in a machine shop.

Amidst the gears, motors, drills, and lathes, we were given two choices: ransom or death.

You fell to your knees begging for God’s mercy, redemption for what you’d cast away.

While genuflecting in jagged debris, you defiantly contemplated the end. “Now what?”

 

While breaking water, you muttered in distress,

It’s not polite to look up a woman’s dress.

Penitent, I found you in duress.

As I clung to your legs you continued to confess.

 

Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh

 

Liberty was for sale in the morning to all bidders, freedom, freedom.

The situation was unbearable, you didn’t sleep all night imagining the fate of our lives.

While we slept in the warmth of your dress, you screamed at God in silent anger.

Again and again you asked about being forsaken, until you fell into a deep slumber.

 

Like rifle shots, the violent clanging of machines awakened you with a startle.

Our warm life that you felt nuzzled between your legs was contrary to the horror.

You hugged us, kissed us, and held us, then quietly surrendered your will.

There was nothing left to say, nothing left to do, there was nothing, just nothing…

 

Suddenly, the loud resonance of the machines stopped—shut down for an announcement.

“All those with money and jewels, move to the left, you may purchase your freedom.

“All without money and jewels, move to the right, you will be taken away and killed.”

In despair, you realized your mistake in throwing away what ransom you possessed.

 

While breaking water, you muttered in distress,

It’s not polite to look up a woman’s dress.

Penitent, I found you in duress.

As I clung to your legs you continued to confess.

 

Sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh

 

You delivered us to the right of the machine shop where you were told.

A gentle breeze wafted fear from our bodies, like burning incense.

As you inhaled deeply, you heard these works: “Those on the right are free to go.”

It had been a trick, a mechanism to force confession from those who represented power.

 

Thereafter, survivor’s guilt plagued your heart and mind as you relived the event.

By God’s mercy we were pardoned, yet you were sad and unhappy, you said.

We were saved, yet you weren’t satisfied, that day, that day, that day…

That day in the machine shop something in you stopped working.

 

Under your plain cotton dress, I clung to the warm pink flesh of your thighs.

For hours I would hide until someone would notice four legs.

I walked where you walked and you walked where I walked.

I listened while you told stories, and while you told stories, I grieved.

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© Charles Garoian 2005