Sep. 1, 2005

Apartment House At Evening

by Gregory Djanikian

Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Apartment House At Evening," by Gregory Djanikian, from Years Later © Carnegie Mellon University Press. Reprinted with permission.

Apartment House At Evening

Something about a hundred windows
lit up like a ship's upper decks, something

about the weed trees
tossing like water below

and the cumulus steam
from the boiler stacks billowing away

and something, too, about a woman
taking off her heels and leaning

dreamily on the balcony railing
as if there's an ocean about her

and something about the laundry
strung up between apartments

like flags signalling the future
and about the samba now

wafting in the cool breeze
and moonlight falling from everywhere

and Nevrig dancing on the rooftop with Aram
and the city blazing with lights

like a harbor about to be left behind
with its customs house and identity cards,

the lines untied, the deep
horizonless night rolling in.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the anniversary of the attack that began WWII in 1939. At 11 minutes after five in the morning, Hitler issued a proclamation for his army to invade Poland. He claimed it was a counterattack, that the Poles had started the whole thing, but in reality, German troops had been moving to the eastern border for weeks; Polish troops had simply moved up to their own border to defend it. Hitler had recently signed a pact with Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, surprising everyone, because the two men had been sworn enemies. Their intention was to carve up Poland, giving the western third to Germany while the Soviets took the rest. American journalist William Shirer, stationed in Berlin, wrote in his journal on the morning of September 1: "A gray morning with overhanging clouds. At dawn this morning Hitler moved against Poland. It's a flagrant, inexcusable, unprovoked act of aggression. The Luftwaffe was mounting anti-aircraft guns to protect Hitler when he addressed the German Parliament at ten this morning. Throughout the speech, I thought, as I listened, ran a curious strain—as though Hitler himself were dazed at the fix he had gotten himself into, and felt a little desperate about it. There was much less cheering in the Parliament than on previous, less important occasions... Tomorrow Britain and France probably will come in, and you will have your second World War."

Britain and France, allied with Poland, entered the war two days later. But by then it was too late to save Poland. The German army unleashed the new form of warfare they called Blitzkrieg, or "lightning war," and within six days had taken Krakow. Within 10 they were outside Warsaw. By early October, Poland had fallen.

It's the birthday of conductor Seiji Ozawa, born in Hoten Manchuko, China (1935), but Japanese—the first Japanese conductor to achieve prominence in the Western world.

It's the birthday of one of the greatest jazz alto sax players, Art Pepper, born in Gardena, California (1925).

It's the birthday of poet Blaise Cendrars born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland (1887).

It's the birthday of American novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs, born in Chicago (1875). His first Tarzan story appeared in 1912, and Burroughs followed it with the novel Tarzan of the Apes (1914), the story of an English nobleman who was abandoned in the African jungle during infancy and brought up by apes.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show