The Two July’s
29 July 2011
The café Döner is closed as the sun comes up
over the nameless grocery next door. The grocer
sits outside on a stool for his günaydın and gossip.
We buy coffee and figs and engage the morning
news. The chief of the Turkish armed forces,
Işık Koşaner, resigned today along with
the general officers of the army, navy and air force.
“It has become impossible for me to continue…”
Koşaner said, “because I am unable to protect
the rights … of my personnel.”
“Do not be stupid,” the grocer whisper-shouts
into a cell phone. “Listen to me,”
his voice drops, “they were all gone,
all gone in one night.
15 July, 2016
The taste of yoghurt returns to me,
with olives, with figs. The sour-
sweet of it, eaten under
a ceiling full of upside-down lamps.
So many lamps, such ample
stained glass, I lost my way staring
up at them. The call to prayer,
the brook-sound of the street,
of Turkic, the yelp of the rug seller,
the cats, the gilt, the arabesque—
the clichés of the city I must mourn
today in streets full of broken glass
and burned trucks and bloodstains.
Now we must all be called to pray.
At The End of the Orient Express
They pause for prayer on the terrace
below the Mosque. Of the muezzin
she says, “now that’s the sound I love.”
After their arrival, customs queues
and crowd jostle, she is pretty sure
her man won’t be enticed to stay forever.
There may be fine red dust,
an ancient basalt road to Tarsus,
the taste of seductive voices
in a new language, but he balks,
“I’m not afraid of fire,” he says,
on the day they arrest the generals.
“I just want to know at daybreak
who kisses them and how?”
After daylight, amid Ramadan’s
pinched faces, she might,
in a womanly way, step back
avert her eyes, as her husband
develops his innate talent
for shrug and flowery complaint.
When evening fetches iftar smiles,
she smile back and reflects
“I could live here indefinitely
with the lean-bodied city cats
that all appear young at dusk
and I’d think but never ask, where
are they, the chew-eared, tattered,
trained and seasoned fighters?”
The edge of the dervish’s white skirt
revolves, rises and falls
as he spins under his tan sikke,
and his dark blue surcoat
streams about him, always
one foot in heaven, one on earth.
He radiates bliss, even toward us
tourists. He turns, breath on breath,
following the chant ~ Allah, Allah.
The bendir is his other heart.
He doesn’t falter.
Our group watches from our table.
We chat. During his dance we eat,
as Americans do, too fast.
sikki- tall dervish headgear
bendir- Turkish drum
On a rooftop, there is tea after
stairs, stairs mostly of marble,
gulls with their baby cries
and below cobble streets whisper
of gilt and clandestine whiskey.
Put an echo in or take it out.
Put in an armed guard.
Put in the lashed boys,
the long-lashed boys, the pictures
of the city as it was before,
when you held my hands under
the dome in Hagia Sophia
before the carousel-colored chairs
were set up in the abattoir.
I fall into the hum of a Turkish bath, and pass a bridal party, milling
in the foyer below the balcony where I must go to change,
sisters and cousins, mother and aunts giggle the bride on her way,
red tulle bows perch on their heads like hens. Their belt coins rhyme
with the elated ululation of recorded music, tinny tambourines.
Their hips rock, their laughter halos the center benches where the sweets
are laid to fortify a party that could last for days. I hear a hundred
whispers, muffled shrieks, the shock of my own language spoken
through the steam, then go to heat up on a tummy stone, a marble
göbek taşı’ while the woman who will bathe me croons
a song from Macedon. The notes rise to the many-windowed ceiling,
pour back down again like little gifts and join the water splashed
across my skin. Sounds wash the room—
the slap of too-big flip-flops, bags of soapsuds whooshing toward
our waiting backs, the slop and murmur, lush of our assorted tongues,
a shower splattering the floor. I ring with heat and with her voice,
a woman-loss cried down the centuries to echo in the stone, call
and response to tablas thump and tanbur drone, to giddy girls
who enter heated rooms. “Cush” says the woman after my massage,
her song, are done. “Cush.” And since she asks, I move.