Four Poems by Shahé Mankerian

50th*

Good people don’t go to heaven directly.
Sometimes detours lead them to gilded

gateways of Camelot, to subway grids
full of steam. In the interim, a chiffon

skirt swells high above the thighs
like a sanctimonious sail. Bypass the Bay

of Pigs wrapped in torn pages of The Crucible,
wrapped in warped roses of DiMaggio.

See the man pounding Ich bin ein Berliner
to the podium like nails to the burning crucifix.

A Lincoln convertible flashes its headlights
at the end of the tunnel. A misguided angel

descends on the grassy knoll, whispers,
Happy Birthday, Mr. President before going home.

*On the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s assassination

 

Will

When I die, bury me under a loquat tree.
If it’s not late December, rent a rain
or fog machine or both. There must be

a crooked angel nearby casting its shadow
over my casket, over the umbrellas.
Find a raven (not a crow) to perch

on the mossy halo. Bring the record player
and let’s listen to Shostakovich’s String
Quartet No. 8. Pass the nazook and allow

the priest to read “Figs” by D. H. Lawrence.
My daughter knows to keep the kite
steady overhead. If her fingers get tired,

remind her to tie the string to my shoe.

 

Turkification in Istanbul

The Byzantine gate to the underground
bathhouse looked steamy and calloused.

Before we used the rooster knocker, a towel
boy with trimmed whiskers held the door for us.

He pointed to the dwarf hidden behind the register.
I placed coins in her sweaty palm. Are you Jewish?

She asked in Turkish. We’re Armenians.
My wife smiled. The boy placed madras robes

on the bench near our feet. I’ll take your shoes
and polish them
. More Turkish. He bowed

to remove my dusty wingtips. My grandmother
prayed in Armenian
, he whispered,

but took the words with her when she died.

 

Moses

All the nuns at the orphanage were ruthless
except for Sister Francis. We called her Moses

because she had whiskers on her chin.
We learned to make fun of her from the older boys.

She talked to water lilies the way Mother
Superior talked to the picture of the pope.

Moses kissed trail of ants during knee-
bound prayers. We threw rotten eggs at her

and stole her shoes left by the convent door.
On Saturdays, she disappeared. Once we followed

her to the basement of the chapel. There, she lied
on a bed of thorns and cried all night. We stopped

throwing things at her and never stole her shoes again.

 

 

Shahé Mankerian’s manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press (Fall Poetry Book Award), and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Mizna.