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Raffi Joe Wartanian: California Poets Part 6, Five Poems

Raffi Joe Wartanian (photo by Anastasia Italyanskaya)

October 18th, 2023

California Poets: Part VI

Raffi Joe Wartanian

Five Poems

Mama’s Dream

My mother told my grandmother and me

About a dream she had

Last night.

Her deceased father


And said,

“Have you forgotten me?”

“No, I didn’t,”

My mother protested,

In her dream.

My mother is silent.

“What happened next,” I ask.

“That’s it,” she says with a shrug.

Then my grandmother inquires, “Did he ask about me?”

Every Day

Every day

I paint you more

I play you more

I fix you more

Because I love you,

Mi Amor

Every day

You inspire me

And sometimes you disgust me

Because I know

Within you rests

This incomprehensible, beautiful you

For which I have toiled for years to extract

Only to scratch the surface

Every day

I play your melody

And search for harmony

I find a way

To (try to) add beauty to you

And come closer

To your purest, simplest


But there are days

Of thankless toil

And utter devotion

Peering through bleary eyes

Fending off exquisite dreams

Only to be met by resistance

Devastating resistance

Until I return to you

Seconds, Hours, or Days


Seconds, Hours, or Days

And I am wooed again

By your enchantment



Dovetail, ascend

To snow-capped improbabilities

Peering above expanses

Of shadows and secrets

And bygone communities


That thrived

And one

That survived.

The survivors,

They crossed an ocean

Swearing themselves to the pursuit

Of consumption cloaked in production.

They cultivated progeny

And launched enterprises;

Opened eyes and palettes,

Hearts and ears.

But the enemy struck

And waves of never again

And they’re among us

Obscured brothers for foes,

Mothers for martyrs

And with the stroke of a pen

The clench of a fist

The squint of an eye

The simultaneous rigidity and malleability of justice,

They were assembled before these peaks

To start anew

In one square mile.

In one square mile

They defecated and prayed

For the nightmare to end,

They felt the wind Slice

Orange Trees

Orange trees can grow in cities

And litter the streets with tantalizing, wormy juices

Leaves peppered with

Citric music bursting into forbidden songs

We dance here

For what else is left to do

Under the shadow of

Towering steeples

Once minarets

Once stones

Once earth


That transports us back through centuries?

The Trumpets of Sevilla

I searched for brass

Triumphantly sounding from the Guadalquivir

I cycled over bridges and cobblestones

Seeking a glimpse

Into love’s divine flavors

Hidden inside the peel of every orange in this city

High, piercing, pleasing, inviting

The trumpets – or bugles were they? –

Blared and told stories

Of bullfights

lightning fingers

civilizations intertwined

On Calle Betis I zeroed in on them

And quickly crossed the Puente de Triana

And sure enough

There they were

Down by the bank

Five of them in a circle by the rio

Oblivious to me

And just yards away

Thundering drums

From a packed hall of men

Contemplating and celebrating and

Rehearsing rhythms

For a march

For fellowship

For life

For the sake of Sevilla’s citrus love

The trumpets found me

Author Bio:

Raffi Joe Wartanian is a writer, musician, and educator who teaches writing at UCLA and serves as the inaugural Poet Laureate in the City of Glendale, California. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, University of Texas Press, Miami Herald, The Baltimore Sun, Lapham’s Quarterly, Outside Magazine, and elsewhere; and his poetry has appeared in The Los Angeles Press, No Dear Magazine, Armenian Poetry Project, Ararat Magazine, and beyond. Raffi has taught writing to veterans at the Manhattan VA, incarcerated writers at Rikers Island, youth in Armenia, and undergraduates at Columbia University, where he earned an MFA in Writing. He is the recipient of grants and fellowships from The Fulbright Program, Eurasia Partnership Foundation, and Humanity in Action. As a musician, Raffi has released two albums of original compositions: Critical Distance (2019) and Pushkin Street (2013).


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