Arthur Kayzakian – Heroes

Arthur Kayzakian

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Heroes, poems by Arthur Kayzakian

Arthur Kayzakian was born in Tehran, Iran during the Iranian Revolution. He migrated to London, and then to Burbank, California. He received his M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge and his MFA from San Diego State University. As an Armenian-Iranian-American diasporic poet, his poems move from a dislocated, disembodied self towards a form of sanctum whether physical or metaphysical. Because his poems often embody estrangement, there is a struggle to reach refuge. There is a sense of unrest in his work due to his separation from his homeland. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from several publications including Pacific Review and Rufous City Review. He is also a contributing editor at Poetry International and has served as an editor at The B-Side literary journal, and he is a recipient of the Minas Savvas Fellowship.


history has never been straight with me       Columbus stomped his foot on the soil of America—wind blowing his sail toward land like a white wave       men and women didn’t have much to say before the rope broke their necks     the stool kicked from beneath them       but the ones who kicked the stool get to write history       which means they are heroes       sometimes in place of titles       I read numbers on the spine of books that smell of gathered dust       the numbers are cluster them into factions     like wearing arm bands         a patchwork of the past          and so the books of conquest and blue-veined war become hard to recognize      when I read my body becomes a submarine under siege

A Breaker’s Prayer

I have never danced as well as I’ve wanted,
but I know how to reveal wounds

like no other art only because
there is no failure more comfortable.

I recall the summer I tried to breakdance
in Naham’s garage.

When he pressed play on his silver boom box
I managed to do a windmill,

and for a short moment,
I spun on my back and felt like a star

like an angel blooming a secret to the ground,
but the only mystery I exposed was blood.

Ode to Breakdancing

Yes, I troubled myself tonight
when I stumbled upon squad of boys and girls

who juked and whirled their slender bodies
on light blue linoleum,

with great vigilance rocked up their tippy toes
then busted a back spin on the edge of the street

to the hip hop and you don’t stop,
a squad of boys and girls in

striped jump suits and fat-laced sneakers
who hacked out a cemetery of laughter and coughing

with the mirth of a rusted pipe,
and when I jumped in the circle

like a roll of dice flung among a herd of urbans,
my legs with the precision of scissors

shuffled into a cut of smooth moves
as if I were a butterfly knife

that liked to whizz inspiration toward the air,
at which I slipped through the half-shut window

of my opponent’s heart and stole his balance
against the crisp smell of summer.

I Used to Dance

I used to break dance to a tape player without cassette
doors to the glimmer of lights against the roar
of the city blowing outside my window
and I used to watch my mother bob

her head watching my father sleep my mother watches
Dancing with the Stars we took
the back street one night after drinking but handcuffs
clicked around my wrists one year

and every year after that I was a star for cops
who held my hands up asked me and asked me
to step out of my car outside my house walk a
straight line kick-step the night away

from me while my father slept to Dancing with the
Stars that jump start the heart of the night and
I held my breath in seventh grade for Jill
for Valerie for Melinda for Jennifer for Cassandra

I used to smile more I used to not worry
about my skin my nose I used to want to be
more Armenian more American like
a rock in starlight a lighthouse where I move

to smile to numb to want asylum for stars
for those who were trampled under the feet
of boots for dancing the star owns nothing
but the dance is all I did when I wanted to break

© Arthur Kayzakian