No One Understands


By Aram Balian

It always seems to be a little strange
When you say “I am Armenian.”
You often get a blank look,
Or a nervous laugh
Even a sophisticated smile, “How wonderful!”
No one understands…
No one recognizes
The depth, the warmth, the love
The shared pain of millions
The unintentional but necessary pride
Alternatively: “America-Hye em”
Brings half smiles
Some wistfulness, some envy
Perhaps even derision
Certainly pity
No one understands…
One foot in the door, one foot outside
Who am I?
What am I?
Why must it be me?
Was it good luck to be born in the “land of freedom”?
Or was it bad?
No one understands…
How do you explain your people’s 3,000-year history?
3,000 years of culture, 3,000 years of survival
How is it possible for a nation so small to live so large?
Where do I smile?
Where do I look?
Where do I become myself?
No one understands…
I think of the pain; the suffering
I think of the beauty
I don’t want to lose it, but we may have already
And when a child smiles
With big black eyes
And a wide toothy grin
Full of innocence and love
And of grace
No one understands…
That child is part of me
The shared me
I realize that though I may straddle two worlds
Though I may never truly feel at home
I am Armenian
(Aram Balian, 15, is a sophomore at the St. Albans School, Maryland. He has won numerous writing competitions. His letter to President Obama about the Armenian Genocide won first place in an essay contest. He recently won the Smithsonian Poetry Contest for the National Kite Festival and read his poem at the National Mall in Washington, DC. His poem will be published in Family Magazine in June. He also has played piano for many years and was chosen as one of two accompanists with the Washington National Opera’s Summer Institute and won a competition in 2009 to perform at Carnegie Hall. He serves as an Acolyte at St. Mary’s Armenian Church in Washington, DC and will be completing deacon training this summer. He is vice chairperson of the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America’s DC Chapter. He is the son of Sevag and Nairi Balian and grandson of the TCA former chairman, the late Vartkess Balian, and Rita Balian.)

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