Turkish Memoire

Turkish Memoire


Wind blew in the dry reeds
beside Lake Van while
granules of sand stung
my face and hands,
the hourglass of time
fallen on its side
obscuring the movement
of the Kurdish caravan
in the distance
its past and future
etched in crimson,
blue and russet
against the tawny hills
of Noah.


Soldiers lolled by beige tents
near Erzurum, the pungent
aroma of Bafra cigarettes
floating in the air,
the sounds of dice
striking the backgammon board—
tavla—expertly thrown. The
call of the muezzin merged
imperceptibly with the song
of the shepherd’s flute,
ancient sounds locked forever
in the vastness of the valley.


The winter dawn, damp
and grey, enfolded the grimy hulk
of Istanbul, hiding a thousand
secrets and daggers.
The cacophony of voices
hawkingçay and simit lost
in the tumult of the harbor
where porters bent beneath
their burdens, awaiting
the terrible clatter
of the Janissary cavalry.


Dizzy from rakı and cigarettes,
the reverberating sound
of amplified Turkish music
swirling in my head,
we made our way unsteadily to a taxi,
then to my room in Eyüp.
In the sheltering darkness
Ayşe came to me,
a glittering Circassian jewel
not unlike Loti’s Aziyadé.


The Army attaché in Ankara
with an intellect the size
of a grain of sand,
an ego bigger than
a balloon character in the
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade,
took every opportunity to impress
with his aviation skills.
So it was one day
that he landed safely
with the ambassador
—at the wrong airfield.