"In wearing masks, we saw each other remove the symbolic ones that kept us hidden from ourselves and each other."

Tumanyan dedicates her work to the “promise of the pomegranate tree” and to the Armenian people, the living and the fallen, who have endured a generations-long struggle for their lives, lands, and homes. It has been a struggle marked by famine, displacement, and an unspeakable death toll. As the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world in late 2019 and early 2020, Armenia was attacked by Azerbaijan in a border dispute.

The pomegranate is a symbol of abundance and good fortune (and of fertility and longevity) in Armenian culture. The tree and its striking scarlet fruit are also fitting metaphors for the musings in this collection. Tumanyan, a teacher by trade, wrote most of the 165 entries during the pandemic’s quarantine while instructing her students remotely online. She was simultaneously immersed in the intricacies of raising her own children and monitoring their remote education—a daunting daily routine.

Tumanyan speaks both simply and briefly in poems (“The opposite of a clock is a coffin / The end!”) and at length eloquently in essays and emails: “I feel divided between 200 students, two of my own kids, and the thousands of words I type daily to get my work done.” She often speaks to the universal frustrations, losses, and growth of the lockdown era: “The idea of being omnipresent while apart is an accurate description of our reality even before the quarantine.”

Within each and every poem, email, or post (Tumanyan includes a few sage pieces written by friends, relatives, and colleagues), there is a nugget, a pomegranate seed, if you will, of discovery or wisdom marked by longing for the movement and freedom of normalcy. This collection is a poignant call to experience peace and acceptance within the boundaries and losses with which the pandemic has challenged humankind.

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