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Oud (The Lute)*
For Oudi Hrant, (Hrant Kenkulian), blind master of the oud…

To us, he was “Oudi Hrant” –Hrant of the oud.
To the Turks, he became, “Hrant Emre” – Hrant of the Soul.
He would “khosaks’ unch” - make the wood speak.
And the ghost music purled from that fat-bellied, rachis-necked
Lute, this “sitar of longing,” he, the
Spider-fingered Magus of the ebony and cedar,
Glissing sounds breathing between sounds,
The “tarab” in the “makam” shaped in
A kind of weeping in the plecked gut,
Like human keening, a soughing song.

Rast, Hijaz, Hihavent, Huseyni, Huzzam,
These the “taxim” that brought form, order,
The architecture of the constellations, the
Gallaxies of chord and moaned note, as if
Entases of the shape of the sound, from
The blind oudist, the master who plays pure,
The fine figured membrane which shivers, blushes,
Vibrates to the “rishi” this wire of sound
Filament of love-ringing, tongue of thunder-
Licking firmaments, integument revenant,
Holy thread and caul of broken hopes.

When the music ghosts wept out of the wood
My father would see them and weep,
Hearing the tears of a fallen childhood,
Knowing, knowing, now, they’re all asleep.

*Arabic: “Al ‘ud – the wood…bastardized to: Lute.

H. M. Merjian


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