An English poem which was translated into 19 languages, including Armenian, Japanese


The sea scene on my mother’s day


Hovhanness I. Pilikian


The ancient Celts believed – and their modern descendents the Irish, the Welsh and the Scots still do – that great poets are life’s great philosophers. Enriched with classical references, and full of memorable lines, Professor Pilikian’s new narrative poem seems to display this acute insight. It celebrates Mother’s Day uniquely with a complex of tragic sentiments of inconsolable sadness and emotionalism, which however finally turn into a victory song over Death, with perhaps the most shocking last words of any line in the history of English poetry I can quote with some trepidation – the traditional Christian Medieval image of Death the Reaper, becomes God’s post-modern violator of life – an astounding philosophical revelation the reader shall not forget.
Simon Aynedjian, Editor, Gibrahayer Internet Magazine.



Hovhanness 1. Pilikian
For Clarke who read this first

I do not know if  all men and women die the same

Waiting and hoping she would be coming home
I was certain the doctors were entirely wrong

She lacked any signs of a wasting disease
She’d never smoked – a teetotal almost by birth

She looked so healthy and Confucian wise
Only a little old

Mah-mah Ho-kiss* used to banter with me
Pour frequently freezing water over my magisterial

“Son, tell me, now!
At this very moment, what’s in my heart?
How would you know it? “
Her mind was in her heart – that much I knew

                           ” Who can tell what’s in anybody’s mind? “

As on earth, so in their vision of the Underworld

The ancients thought of the Sea and its shore as

a metaphor

The dreaded Charon transported the dead souls ‘to

the other shore’

Little did I know how right and true the old

Greeks were!

I had feared death mortally

Would change my path to avoid

A funeral cortege on its way to the seaside…

” When do you think I can take her home, Nurse?

Shall we call for a taxi? “

” Will you not understand, good Professor

Your mother is dying, No! She’s not going home! “

The Irish male nurse burst the shores of his temper
Flooding me with furious oceanic anger

” No, Prof, you won’t be taking her home”
He repeated and rubbed tons of sea-salt in my
just-wounded soul

I trusted my sister alone and she was dead silent…

Okeanus the classical Greek Titan
Encircled the known world like a belt
Overhanging a fat man’s beer belly

The father of all earthly water was a mother too…

My sister Arsineh of Montreal thought I was mad
Cracking camp jokes babbling of ancient Greeks

Mah-mah Ho-kiss’ was gasping for breath through
an oxygen mask

It was the evening of a long day watching over her
hospital bed
And I wanted to make her laugh

” Mah-mah, Ho-kiss, tell me
What’s in your heart now? “

Leaning over out of a fearful boredom
I whispered right into her ears my face very close to hers

In the past our cue for a Confucian joke…
But she was not laughing this time

Dead worried I repeated my Armenian catchphrase
Mah-mah Ho-kiss in-dzi ehs-say”**

” I’ve nothing to say “

The fury of all the fifty Furies chasing Orestes
in Aeschylus

Etched suddenly on her visage throughthe

transparent mask


She gulped

And choked on air

Mah-mah Ar-sineh Ho-kiss hold her Nurse help

pull her up

She’s sinking in the sea

And the last bubbles of her universal breath

Slowly one by one surfaced from her unfathomable

soulfid seaful depths

Luce-tania she was and Titanic

The fiery chiaroscuro sun-disk at dusk

Floating like a feather down into Turner’s depths of

an infinite sea


I and Ar-sineh left orphans on the shore

Dumb, dead, and broken hearted

Soul destroyed

How and what shall we could we must we tell Israel

our father

Ninety years ago he’d seen his people a million

massacred by the Young old Turks

What and how might we must we will we tell our

absent siblings

Kha-tchik in Hounslow, Mar-karid in Paris, Mari-

noss in Toronto


A gust of gentle wind

Her soul I think on the way out of Golgotha

Breezed through the hospital sea shore

Banging doors and blowing the ward windows

wide open



A quiet rumble alighted in a quick flash lightning

Rain fell painfully on the panes outside for just

a few moments

Was my mah-mah ho-kiss Christ’s sister?

The fear of death had almost killed me
Until the day I saw the scene of my Mother’s Day
When the titanic Okcanus sank my mother’s ship

Death the Reaper rapes all life before it

Do not avoid your parents’ death my child

Witnessing their passing away at seashore
Shall give you the courage you need

To survive in sanity in a world harvested
Regularly by God’s own very Rapist

* Armenian, translates my mother, my soul
** Armenian, translates my mother, my soul, tell me!

thanks to Artsvi Bakhchinyan for giving this material!