Inner City with Father

In our last conversation, he sat
on a milk crate, held the unlit

cigarette like a fountain pen,
and kept tapping the filter against

his weak heart. As if he wanted
to offer a final walkthrough

inside his chambers, dispose
the melted snow of Mt. Ararat,

wrap the warped Kamancheh of Sayat
Nova in rags, tuck Mama’s grape

leaves like love letters in the left
ventricle. Beethoven blocked

a coronary and a cadenza full
of sonnets pushed against his aorta.

That’s the ashen smoke of Beirut.
That’s the bloated bridge of Bourj,

and that’s you, he said,
my failing tourniquet.


Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena, CA, and the codirector of the LA Writing Project. He is the recipient of the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation in arts education. In 2016, Mankerian’s poem was a finalist at the Gotham Writers 91-Word Memoir Contest, and the Altadena Poetry Review nominated him for the Pushcart Prize. His manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at the Crab Orchard Poetry Open Competition, the Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press Poetry Book Award, and the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.