Helene Pilibosian

Helene Pilibosian

Helene Pilibosian’s poetry has appeared in such magazines as The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Louisiana Literature, The Hollins Critic, North American Review, Seattle Review, Ellipsis, Weber: The Contemporary West, Poetry Salzburg Review, Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies as well as many anthologies.

She has published the books Carvings from an Heirloom: Oral History Poems, the Writer’s Digest award-winning At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems and History’s Twists: The Armenians (honorable mention). Her early work has been cited in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature.

Formerly she was an editor at an Armenian-American newspaper where she wrote editorials, articles, news reports and book reviews. Now she’s head of Ohan Press, a private bilingual micropress which has published ten internationally recognized books of both prose and poetry including her recent memoir My Literary Profile. Helene Pilibosian holds a degree in humanities from Harvard University.


I waved back to the sea
that waved Mediterranean to me
and wiped my forehead
with the blue Baroque of its mood.
Self-consciously I placed
an island of no regret
on location with political eyebrows
and social cafés
as well as stationery
to ink the latest in thought.

An oblivious shore,
it waited for the return
of legendary sailing ships
while braiding the sounds
of Arabic and Italian
into the Maltese language.
Italian ice meeting Tunisian stone.
My feet took to the salt water
with international frailty
but preferred marble sandals
to match the palaces
where royalty indulged
building capacity in Valetta.

I watched Caravaggio’s hands
to welcome his work.
The lights and darks of canvas
in chiaroscuro of Italian description
told me about his paintbrush
and inflections of his style.
As I stayed awhile,
the atmosphere described
a headless John the Baptist,
the artist’s tumult
and his bequest to the Cathedral.

My eyes, turned yellow
as the lemonade of the sea,
slaked my curiosity
while I turned the pages
of the European book
to unfurl a vernacular
that curled like the filigree
of its silver jewelry.
How appropriate the rose,
my middle name,
shining like the silver sea.


gifts new meanings to the West,
the ideals of the metropolis
where Alexander the Great lived
and congealed with his reputation.
Its mysteries type thoughts
about the sand and sky
that record the past.
Tropical manners for breakfast
and the heavy coffee of the culture.

Palaces built as palaces
now provide museum life
after King Farouk lost his rule
to more winning waves.
Republic arrived in 1952
as if floating down the Nile
to quench the barren thirst
of the ancient metropolis.

Winter brings a dry sun
and a necessary appetite
for the noise of the crowd.
Loud sets itself up as a regime,
drifting away from a snow
beyond its acquaintance.
The museum blares blue and beige
against the Mediterranean,
pictures the horse-and-carriage driver
who naps and doesn’t count
the hours of a tour.

A dream perhaps,
an errant reverie begging
a new kind of empathy
as young and old scavenge
for a living out of their small duties,
and morning puts the spare change
of time into their pockets.
The world might say “don’t look back,”
though courting Nefertiti.

If only rain would pour
even with beards on the drops
to pretend at French perfume.
If only dungaree romances
would send Versaci trading.
But women appear shadowed
while walking home from market
in ankle-length black gowns
carrying baskets on their heads.

The West sees them,
takes inventory of trades.
An ambitions man offers
a bottle of whiskey for dollars.
Self-employed magicians
swallow swords at the dock.
Heat pitches its poster
and sends muscles meandering.

No alarms,
only complications of dust
and palm trees comment
on the dryness of the year
as Egypt swallows its tears.

Poetry in this post: © Helene Pilibosian
Published with the permission of Helene Pilibosian