Saturday, August 30, 2014

Abun d-bašmayo

Abun d-bašmayo - The Lord's Prayer
Syriac Orthodox liturgical music
Arr. Andy Paul Chen for guitar, vocals and bowed psaltery, after Gareth Hughes [source]

ܐܒܘܢ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ
Abun d-bašmayo
ܢܬܩܕܫ ܫܡܟ
Nethqadaš šmokh
ܬܐܬܐ ܡܠܟܘܬܟ
Tithe malkuthokh
ܢܗܘܐ ܣܒܝܢܟ
Nehwe sebyonokh
ܐܝܟܢܐ ܕܒܫܡܝܐ ܐܦ ܒܪܥܐ
Aykano d-bašmayo oph bar`o
ܗܒ ܠܢ ܠܚܡܐ ܕܣܘܢܩܢܢ ܝܘܡܢܐ
Hab lan laḥmo d-sunqonan yowmono
ܘܫܒܘܩ ܠܢ ܚܘܒܝܢ ܘܚܬܗܝܢ
Wašbuq lan ḥawbayn waḥtohayn
ܐܝܟܢܐ ܕܐܦ ܚܢܢ ܫܒܩܢ ܠܚܝܒܝܢ
Aykano doph ḥnan šbaqan l-ḥayobayn
ܠܐ ܬܥܠܢ ܠܢܣܝܘܢܐ
Lo ta`lan l-nesyuno
ܐܠܐ ܦܨܐ ܠܢ ܡܢ ܒܝܫܐ
Elo paṣo lan men bišo
ܡܛܠ ܕܕܠܟ ܗܝ ܡܠܟܘܬܐ
Meṭul d-dilokh hi malkutho
ܘܚܝܠܐ ܘܬܫܒܘܚܬܐ
W-ḥaylo w-tešbuḥto
ܠܥܠܡ ܥܠܡܝܢ
L`olam `olmin

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sparrow in a Sea of Trees

A sparrow in a tree
In a sea of trees,
It falls from its perch;
It is buried by the leaf litter.
The maggots eat it;
The worms return it to the soil.
The forest stands
The world is proud, the world moves on
Only the Lord mourns.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Excerpts from Report to Greco

1. My father spoke only rarely, never laughed, never engaged in brawls. He simply grated his teeth or clenched his fist at certain times, and if he happened to be holding a hard-shelled almond, rubbed it between his fingers and reduced it to dust. Once when he saw an aga place a packsaddle on a Christian and load him down like a donkey, so completely did his anger overcome him that he charged towards the Turk. He wanted to hurl and insult at him, but his lips had become contorted. Unable to utter a human word, he began to whinny like a horse. I was still a child. I stood there and watched, trembling with fright. And one midday as he was passing through a narrow land on his way home for dinner, he heard women shrieking and doors being slammed. A huge drunken Turk with drawn yataghan was pursuing Christians. He rushed upon my father the moment he saw him. The heat was torrid, and my father, tired from work, felt in no mood for a brawl. It occurred to him momentarily to turn into another lane and flee--no one was looking. But this would have been shameful. Untying the apron he had on, he wrapped it around his fist, and just as the colossal Turk began to raise the yataghan above his head, he gave him a punch in the belly and sprawled him out on the ground. Stooping, he wrenched the yataghan out of the other's grip and strode homeward. My mother brought him a clean shirt to put on--he was drenched in sweat--and I (I must have been about three years old) sat on the couch and gazed at him. His chest was covered with hair and steaming. As soon as he had changed and cooled off, he threw the yataghan down on the couch next to me. Then he turned to his wife.

"When your son grows up and goes to school," he said, "give him this as a pencil sharpener."

2. The priest had placed himself at the head of the grave, where he swung the censer up and down and murmured prayers under his breath. I leaned over the newly dug soil. Mold, putrefaction; I pinched my nostrils. Though I felt sick to my stomach, I did not go away. I waited. Bones? What bones? I kept asking myself, and I waited.

Suddenly the man who was bent over and digging stood up straight. His torso emerged above the pit. In his hands he held a skull. He cleaned the dirt off it, inserting his finger and pushing the mud out of the eye cavities, then placed it on the lip of the grave, leaned over again, and recommenced his digging.

"What is it?" I asked my uncle, trembling from fright.
"Can't you see? It's a dead person's head. A skull."
"Don't you remember her? It's out neighbour Annika's."
I burst into tears and began to howl.
"Annika's! Annika's!" I cried. Throwing myself in the ground, I grabbed all the stones I could find and started to hurl them at the gravedigger.

Wailing and lamenting, I screamed how beautiful she was, how beautiful she smelled! She used to come to our house, place me on her knees and comb my curls with the comb she removed from her hair. She used to tickle me under the arms, and I giggled, I peeped like a bird.

My uncle took me in his arms, carried me off a little ways, and spoke to me angrily. "Why are you crying? What did you expect? She died. We're all going to die."

But I was thinking of her blond hair, her large eyes, the red lips which used to kiss me. And now...
"And her hair," I shrieked, "her lips, her eyes?..."
"Gone, gone. The earth ate them."
"Why, why? I don't want people to die!"
My uncle shrugged his shoulders. "When you grow up, you'll find out why."

I never did find out. I grew up, became old, and never did find out.

3. Pateropoulos in the first grade: a little old man, very short, fierce-eyed, with drooping mustache, and the switch constantly in hand. He hunted us down, collected us, then set us out in a row as though we were ducks and he were taking us to market to sell. "The bones are mind, the flesh is yours, Teacher," every father instructed him as he turned over his wild goat of a son. "Thrash him, thrash him until he becomes a man." And he thrashed us pitilessly. All of us, teacher and students alike, awaited the day when these many beatings would turn us into men. When I grew older and philanthropic theories began to mislead my mind. I termed this method barbarous. But when I came to know human nature still better, I blessed, and still bless, Pateropoulos's holy switch. It was this that taught us that suffering is the greatest guide along the ascent which leads from animal to man.

4. One day while reading the legend of Saint John of the Hut, I jumped to my feet and made a decision: "I shall go to Mount Athos to become a saint!" Without turning to look at my mother (Saint John of the Hut had not turned to look at his mother), I strode over the threshold and out into the street. Taking the most outlying lanes and running all the way for fear that one of my uncles might see me and take me back home, I reached the harbor, where I approached a caique, the one which was ready to weigh anchor first. A sun-roasted seaman was leaning over the iron bitt and struggling to undo the cable. Trembling with emotion, I went up to him.

"Can you take me with you, Captain?"
"Where do you want to go?"
"Mount Athos."
"Where? Mount Athos? To do what?"
"Become a saint."

The skipper shook with laughter. Clapping his hands as though shooing away a hen, he shouted, "Home! Home!"

I ran home in disgrace, crawled under the sofa, and never breathed a word to anyone. Today is the first time I admit it: my initial attempt to become a saint miscarried.

5. Early the next morning my father took me by the hand.
"Come," he said.
My mother became frightened. "Where are you taking the boy? Not a single Christian has left his house yet."
"Come," my father repeated. He opened the door and we went outside.
"Where are we going?" I asked. My hand was trembling inside his massive palm.
I looked up and down the street. It was deserted except for two Turkish women at the corner who were washing at the tap. The water had turned red.
"Are you afraid?"
"That doesn't matter. You'll get used to it."

Turning the corner, we headed toward the harbor gate. We passed a house that was still smoking and many others with broken doors, blood still on the thresholds. When we reached the main square with its lion-scupltured fountain and the huge old plane tree at the edge, my father stopped.
"Look!" he said, pointing with his hand.

I looked up toward the plane tree and uttered a cry. Three hanged men were swinging there, one next to the other. They were barefooted, dressed only in their nightshirts, and deep green tongues were hanging out of their mouths. Unable to endure the sight, I turned my head away and clung to my father's knees. But he grasped my head with his hand and rotated it toward the plane tree.

"Look!" he ordered me again.
My eyes filled with hanged men.
"As long as you live--do you hear--may these hanged men never be out of your sight!"
"Who killed them?"
"Liberty, God bless it!"

I did not understand. Goggle-eyed, I stared and stared at the three bodies that were slowly swaying among the yellowing leaves of the plane tree.
My father swept his glance around him and pricked up his ears. The streets were deserted. He turned to me.

"Can you touch them?"
"No!" I answered, terrified.
"You can!... Come!"
We went close; my father crossed himself hurriedly, repeatedly
"Touch their feet!" he commanded.
He took my hand. I felt their cold, crusty skin against the tips of my fingers. The night dew was still upon them.
"Kiss them! Do obeisance!" my father now commanded. Seeing me try to make a break and get away, he seized me beneath the arms, lifted me, bent my head downward, and forcefully glued my mouth to the rigid feet.

He put me down. My knees could not support me. He leaned over and looked at me.
"That was to help you get used to it," he said.

Once more he took me by the hand. We returned home. My mother was standing behind the door waiting anxiously.
"Where in God's name did you go?" she asked, seizing me avidly and kissing me.
"We went to do obeisance," answered my father, and he gave me a trustful look.

Tresha Remembers

Tresha remembers.
Tresha remembers the time before the two hurricanes swept across the country, bringing houses and driving people, Down-down-down.
Tresha remembers the day when she met her own angel, an uncommon honour for one before their time is due.
Tresha's angel came with a host of many others, who descended upon the homes in the shantytown, filling each one up, reciting strange prayers. Presently, they were about to take leave.
Tresha's angel followed them. She was tall, slender and noble. She was decked in simple clothes, but her face shone, Shone, more brightly than all the rest.
Tresha followed her, ambling along the dirt path, her neighbours' doorsteps. She walked by her side as the host left the town.
Tresha reached out for the angel's hand, and her fingers closed around her own.

Down, down, down the slopes to Batangas, Tresha remembers.