Silva Merjanian


Rain Had No Scent in Geneva in November

Rain was relentless in November.
Cobblestones in Geneva carried
echoes as if greetings in foreign
language, pelting lace-curtained
panes on the Rive Gauche.

Streets stalked scuffed heels
with a drenched hiss, casting shadows
on rain’s exhale, then curved and coiled
in ashtrays on Rue de Rhone,

and faces I met,
melted nameless on fogged windows
of crowded cafés.

Traffic, strangers, cigarette stubs
piled in ashes…
trading one envy with another.

None of them mine.

My feet drifted in glazed- eye yearnings
to debris, wailing, prayers for peace
rising in rainwater
along Beirut’s deserted streets.

I still had hail in my shoes
from Rue Mexique.

Over there,
the walls were damp from inside.

Bones deliquesced in fantasies
rain often brought with scent
of Jasmine.
Always Jasmine… vestige of spring
lingered there in our dreams.

And cigarettes yet to be smoked
were hidden behind history books
on a shelf, where hope was tucked
and forgotten by daylight.
Most days, at half past four
November smelled of the sea
burning evidence of bloodshed
on its floor.

On Rue de Rhone
nothing had scent in November.
I could not tell the way back home
when there was no fear
shedding bread crumbs,
no panic sweat
oozing from ancient sidewalks,

no story to tell after dark;
I hadn’t been yet to the rooftops
to watch a city come alive,
to watch it catch my fall
and place me on a ledge
changing the color of my eyes.

Geneva eyed me from a distance,
circling ’round,
splashing its odorless rain
on bare shins,
mocking the loneliness
dripping from an umbrella
held too tight.

He’d said turn right
from the chestnut stand
and go straight,
you can’t miss Eaux-Vive 2000,
turn that corner
I’ll be there.

By 6 pm the corner -stand man
from whom I’d bought
grilled chestnuts
warming my heart and hands,
had folded walls of his smile
washed the pavement
and gone home.

Turn right … turn right…
I picked the spot
where I’d left my mother’s
farewell; a balcony in Beirut
where once I hung
from wooden pegs
on empty clotheslines,
dripping dreams
on dead roots of geraniums
in flower pots,

across from ghosts gaping
at wounds on their chests,
across from doves missing
on TV antennas on rooftops,
across from all she could not say
but added to jars of sumac, dried mint,
tomato paste she’d cooked herself
and insisted I take with me on the plane.

I turned…
I turned and left behind 25 years,
her outworn womb,
her blue eyes wet as the rain
when she sang for us
Zepouyri Nman, (Like a Breeze)
knowing nothing of Geneva’s
bise, nor how to bend that wind at will
between chapped lips.


Rue de Rhone – a beautiful street on Rive Gauche in Geneva.
Rue Mexique- a street I grew up on, in west Beirut.
Bise – a cold dry north wind of southern France, Switzerland, and Italy.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty for me is not a description of an object or sound, but an emotion. It has a place right there with happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, surprise, trust, etc. It is our reaction to an object, and not the object.  It might be the most fragile, volatile and complicated of all and can overlap not necessarily with positive emotions, but with all.  As with all emotions we can get desensitized to beauty, weakening our sense of compassion and love, art is one way to stop that process.


Silva Zanoyan Merjanian is a widely published poet of Armenian descent, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon. She moved to Geneva for a few years during the Lebanese civil war and later settled in Southern California with her husband and two sons. Her work is featured in anthologies and international poetry journals, such as XXI Century World Literature, San Diego Poetry Annual, an upcoming issue of Levure littéraire, Scarlet Leaf Review, Ygdrasil, A journal of Poetic Arts, and elsewhere. Merjanian was the guest speaker at Celebration of Survival cultural event at Ohio State University on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Merjanian has two volumes of poetry, Uncoil a Night (2013) and Rumor (Cold River Press, 2015.) Rumor won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Fall 2015 for best poetry book by NABE. Merjanian donates proceeds from both books and speech compensations to charitable organizations. More at: