Three Poems — Alex Vartan Gubbins

In Gyumri

Find the earth’s earliest moldings
& you’ll knee-buckle, caps to ground
where a clod spreads the wet
beyond the epidermis of sorrow
to the tendon you exhausted
bending down to her

before you empty
the bottle in hand, you utter a name
(the earthquake now spoken of),
& your lips’ dryness takes you
into the cave you built
under the body.

you don’t soak the towel, you don’t
look at her initials almost gone,
you lift yourself by your legs,
adjourn the meditation
you brought with you from the place
between side-of-the-road drunkenness,
and gnatzet aghcheeks     this cup

instead            you walk stones
dark-as-night-after-moon black,
peel shadow off blue dusk
to slide under your arm as you run
your hand over your own skin—
she    in a dress    hair off    the shoulders,
foot prints    a yard    a single tree

maybe you’ll wrap your sight around
the slag’s moss, painted like silky tresses
taken over by a wild grass, frozen to her
grave    the color of winter ice
after making love to wilted iris.
Or maybe just the shadows that pass you,
curves of wind pressing your ears
like a washing machine    spinning
a cycle of pins


Yerevan Spring

The between of things change.
In the dark & cold        it was
undress,         dress.
Cover up,             rush.

The faucet’s no longer frosty.
Over it I lay     kitchen cloth,
& the damp is sucked into
the stitches     of a tree, rich
green          &      sour cherry.

The heavy coat     you once
colluded with    for months
now collects dust         as you don
the blue sweater             before out
the door.                              Your walk
cools skin between fabric            & spirit.
Your brow          —naked of the wool hat—
re-knows nirvana,                the pistons
of negative zero     are scuttled      by the sun.

During the melt
you descend the Cascade.
Feet become wings.
You aim gently   to a step
without ice       then alight
on the edge.
While waiting for a wind,
you rescind
a promise         made under sheets:

Under the aegis of heat
I lit your body.
Take it back—
The touching of flame.


Mother of Soldier on Furlough from Artsakh

What ifs and maybes
drive her knuckles to knead
the dough a little harder

she will punch, will grind, will lift, will
salt, will douse water, will rub, will tuck
until the soft’s a hint of love & Yerevan

she will stick the oval batch
to the oven’s hot wall & let it become
whatever the fire makes of it

she can’t stop the heating now
now’s the expanding into puffs
like lava clouds in front of a red sun

the shaping and the can’t wait
to break off a slightly rigid crust,
bite, burn of the palate roof


[she doesn’t know the Azeri men
who duck heads, belly to briar,
look through scopes, point barrels
at her boy & his friends

she doesn’t understand their prophet
who doesn’t appear in her holy book,
nor show his face to others in image,
just on borders, by bombs

she assumes they’ve bread too,
a place for yeast to cool, to hide,
& hungry hands ready to reach,
grab a bit. butter it. or, have it plain]


Alex Vartan Gubbins was born in Chicago. He has a BA in African Languages and Literature from University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA from Northern Michigan University. He was the recipient of the 2014 Witter Bynner Translation Grant and a finalist in the North American Review’s 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize. Recently, he’s been published in By & By Poets, Bird’s Thumb, and Tishman Review. He currently lives in Yerevan, Armenia where he works as a teacher.