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Michael Minassian


Michael Minassian is a Contributing Editor for Verse-Virtual, an online magazine. His chapbooks include poetry: The Arboriculturist (2010) and photography: Around the Bend (2017). For more information:


Near the end of our trek
through the woods, Jack and I
come upon the small pond
across the street from his house.

A thin sheen
of green pond scum
covers the surface,
and a rusted metal sign
warns No Swimming
as if anyone would dive
into that mordant muck.

Jack insists the sign
is meant to be ironic
or at least a metaphor.
If you swim in that pond,
he adds, you’ll find it has
no beginning or end.

I tell him I can see the other
shore that ends in a stand
of white birch trees
bent over in the wind.

Just another metaphor, he says
and I look at him,
his hair as white as the clouds
skittering across the sky above us
and wonder when did he grow old.

Later, we sit in his study
drinking cups of strong coffee
surrounded by Jack’s manuscripts
and letters; he places his lips
on my forehead.
I prefer the symbol
rather than the word, he says.

Just after dark, he takes
me back to the pond,
our way lit by a single flashlight
until we reach the same shore
and watch the fireflies
rise above the water
as infinite as the stars
with no beginning and no end.


Two Irish cops came in and slapped
the cuffs on my grandfather and his friends
playing nickel and dime poker
in the Armenian social club –
the bigger cop with the nightstick
who smelled of whiskey and French fries
held my hand when we marched down the stairs
and around the block to the station.

I heard the sergeant tell my grandfather
to just keep the money off the table:
“Play with chips or matches, dentures
or your buddy’s glass eye. This is America.
You ain’t in the old country anymore.”

Across the room, the clank of cells
sounded like barking dogs;
every sight and sound magnified:
like the Puerto Rican teenager with a bloody lip
crying and muttering in Spanish,
and the three women in tight sweaters
and brightly colored skirts.

Later, my father came to the precinct
to bail out the old men;
pausing for a minute at the top of the stairs,
then saw my grandfather cuffed to a steel chair
next to the hissing radiator,
while I sat at a battleship gray desk
drinking a sweating bottle of coke.

Marching three abreast, we headed
back to the apartment on Bathgate Avenue,
the street like the shadow of a wide sea,
the barbershop pole on the corner spinning
like a moist flag reflected in a broken mirror,
beckoning and welcoming us
like lost sailors dreaming of returning home.
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