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The dead are always talking; it is the living, in every age of gizmos and thingamabobs, who have forgotten how to listen.

“I died like this …”

Contrary to what you might believe these stories are told to anyone who can hear, regardless of kinship curse, haunting or vague homicidal family blood ties. Why is it that those who worship ancestors the most turn a deaf ear to their own tribe, let alone the tribe of their neighbors? That is a darkening of the soul. That is something the dead will not abide.

“… far out in a desert, a wasteland of salt, in the heat and stink of what the Turks call Der ez Zor …”

If you can hear stars sing you can listen to the dead. It is simple, for the dead are always talking with red adder’s tongue and the blessed silver owl light. A kiss in your mouth that leaves sparks. Sparks. If you can rub amber’s essence between your fingers you can listen to anything.

…“I was a girl, fey-wristed with curly black hair. I will tell you. I will tell you everything …”

You know some things, but never all. Der ez Zor was a place of suffering during the starving times. During the long walks. During the annihilation. The dead can tell you this because they remember the names. Names for everything. Names that you have been taught to ignore, that you’ve forgotten.

“… we called it Medz Yeghern, the Great Calamity. Remember what I tell you. Remember when the first signs of destruction were blown to us in the wind …”

I tell you about the fourteenth year in the new century. I tell you what I’ve heard because I am nothing and nobody. I can’t speak their language or read from their books. But the dead don’t care about grammar or poor translation or how verbs are conjugated. All they need is a willing audience.

“… when the wild horsemen came and burned down our crops, killing our fathers and husbands and son, telling us that we must go south, to the camps, to follow the relocation orders …”

These are not my kith and kin. These are not my blood soaked lands. Still — Medz Yeghern, the Great Calamity — fills my dreams and will not let me rest. Ever since I returned home from Peace Corps. Ever since I first tasted that strange flat bread that the dead call lavash.