MARBLES

30 December 2014

FIREDANCER

It was waiting in the distance
A ridge at the edge of the horizon,
An olive grove I thought.
It took years for me to get there
Walking a little each evening
Mildly curious, expecting nothing,
My careless drifting across the landscape.

Later at home I found the gash
This was another one,  
Slicing its way over existing scar tissue.
I let my fingers touch it
It was exquisite, a secret wound.
I would nurture this one,
Drape it in all my intricate finery
Bandage it with black laces
Read to it from ancient story books.

"What beautiful olive trees," I said,
Staring from the periphery.
I spied flames somewhere at heart’s center:
A blaze was raging,
Radiating heat and a multi-hued riot
Burnishing the path and the stones beyond.

A scattering of newborn stars
The heavier coloring skyward
Caused the fire to appear striking,
Its veins hypnotizing in the twilight 

I wanted release from my confinement
Yearned to be a firewalker in the woods
A barefoot dancer upon burning coals

Out here the cold can scorch
But I hope for olive branches, 
That you would send me olive branches. 

20 December 2014

A CUP OF LINDEN TEA

Twice the size
Of what a respectable hen
Would deign to produce,
It was a fairly large egg
My cousin found nestled
Among all the ordinary eggs-
The speckled, brown, paperwhite shells
Clustered warm on the hay
Around that gray monstrosity.
Of course he lay claim to it right away
And his mother,
Who was a lousy cook by the way,
Let him keep it.

By rights, it should have belonged
To us both, but negotiation
Would have been a vain endeavor,
That, I understood.            
I was a visitor in the village, 
An intruder, even an interloper
Whose dispossessed roots were claimed by cities,  
And not by the country wind
Carried fragrant through the trees,
Not even by the sprawling farmhouse
I still often visit, nowadays in dreams.

In the pre-dawn hours
The procession reaches its destination
And everyone bows to start work.
It’s the best time for such a job,
The air chilled by the closing night,
The light scant, its spreading slow and soft.
Leaves are plump and hydrated before sunrise,
So easy to snap.
The familiar scent is at its strongest then,
Sap turns fingers sticky and black as tar
But they are gathered carefully,
Row after row, snap,
Piled into baskets, covered tightly-
Leaves like banknotes,
Each snap an assurance of survival.

They had passed beneath my window
And walked silently also beneath
The half-shut, summer-night windows
Of those lucky enough to be in slumber.

I’ve kept vigil as you’ve slumbered-
Your every deep, sound breath
In rhythmic rise and fall
Assurance of blissfulness.
Tell me, whom do I thank for this wondrous gift,
For knowing you, your arms,
And for the moonlight bathing your limbs?

As they traversed it seemed they levitated,  
A floating parade
Clearing over fences to reach the fields-
Spirits not yet crushed by effort,
The strain coming later, as the day progressed.
Even the animals, the solitary echo
Of a cow bell, carts grinding on cobblestone
Had a mystery surrounding them.

Entangled memories
Of youth and middle age,
Dreams of nightly ironing
To banish daytime creases-
And myself startled
Upon awakening,
An unopened book placed in my hands. 

But there was an egg, remember?
I was not allowed near it,
However, I affirm it was real, not a dream,
A true memory, although somewhat inane.
Here’s how things evolved:
At coffee time a neighbor came by
To have a look. 
My cousin triumphantly agreed
When his friends declared it to be
An oddity. 
It definitely was a peculiar specimen.
That enigma from the chicken coop
Could never have exited
A hen’s oviduct. 
The morning after its arrival
It was sacrificed.

I kept to my side of the table at breakfast,
Close to yiayiά.
I sipped my linden blossom tea,
Ate a slice of buttered raisin bread.
Try dunking raisin bread in linden tea. 
You will love it.
He decided he wanted an omelet-
An optimistic child, my cousin,
Considering his mother was a lousy cook.
The omelet soup
Didn’t taste any differently he said
From other omelet soups he had.

I took measure of my graceless aunt,
Nearly husbandless, he traveled so much-
Why did he marry her, my uncle?

Grandfather’s horse lets me rest my cheek
Upon her belly. I give her water:
She drinks and drinks cool fresh water.
I give her everything she wants:
Fruit, vegetables, a bath and a brushing.
My cheek is pressed on her belly, I fantasize.
I love her warm, noisy belly
And her pacific bearing.
I dream:
When I grow up, I’ll finish school. 
Mamά will send me to Paris. 
She said it. 
Suppose I’m alone in Paris?
If I ever have a husband
I’ll make sure he loves me.
He’ll open up my favorite book
And read to me, all the pages,
Read them with unhesitating pleasure,
With a soft voice
Underneath the linden tree.
When the tree is in bloom
His voice will sing,
Our story will become a serenade.

I will dry the flowers for his linden tea.  

03 December 2014

OLD WOUNDS

he sailed away unseen

I stayed on, as good a place as any.
They say this is a beautiful
Island, but I believe beauty is
Perceived only when one belongs.
I am merely passing through here,
Treading without purpose.
I travel an inalterable road,
Live within the indisputable familiar,
The hills and shoreline,
The incessant moaning of
Billows staggering landward.

The shock of his departure,
His enduring callousness,
They haunt me still.
Days of waiting
While  nothing happens,
Days spent in denial,
Somber days strung together
And the sleepless loneliness
Of night.
She took me in, she
Who became my mother-in-law,
Taught me how to listen again,
Hear the wind. 
The vessel moving wind.

Mornings, I’d wake to find
Milk sweetened with honey
On my nightstand.
The old woman
Would bring it in while I slept.
“So that you have a sweet day,”
She said when I asked.
“Goat’s milk?”
“Our goats,
With orange-blossom honey
From the mainland.”

I would take the cup,
Walk to the window and search.
Waves gently tapped the dock,
Boats brought in the day’s catch, 
Eager birds fought 
Over their share of fish guts. 
There was a partial view of
The market where I bought
His knife and a huge coil of rope.
I kept the knife with me
And had the rope sent.

At the table
I let him touch me,
Softly he began,
His fingertips
Meandering over
My back, my arms,
We smiling,
Biting lips,
Playfully, playfully.
His tongue strayed,
Colliding with mine
And I felt liberated,
A bird soaring, gliding.

I remembered the knife-

Happily,
I watched the unrolling of 
The newspaper wrapping,
The gleam in his eyes
As he examined
The quality of the blade.

My body, all its skin
Was alert, flushed, waiting.

He didn’t let me share the aslan sütü:
“May I?  A small sip?”
He refused, my knowledge
Of his activities should be limited
He said, crossing his legs.
But my body, all its skin
Was alert, flushed, waiting,
My heartbeat danced rapidly,
Too rapidly to let me ask:
“Why?”
He wouldn’t have answered.

I love you, I love you,
I sing in the morning.
I spin and sing
I love you, I love you.
And the sweet milk spills
On my nightgown,
On the wooden planks,
On my bare legs.
I love you, I love you,
Oh, how I do!

It fills me up-
The love, its memories,
Sadness, my tears-
My chest is full
With a happy delirium. 
Eyes closed, I remember each
Shade and shift of daylight, starlight
We witnessed together-
I taste him, his saltiness.

“Your mother-in-law is angry,”
They whisper. 
The old woman had wagered on me.
To her dismay, my husband is making
Alternate plans: curly haired
Boys, such fetching young men
Pursue him.  He is rich, after all.
Together they drink, preen,
Disappear for hours-
Hard muscles, a few lines of blow.
Some I invite for coffee,
Thick and strong, şekerli, sade,
Whichever they prefer.
Then we read each other’s fortune:
“I see a long road, you’re going on a trip”
They’ll  say, showing me the markings
Crusted in the cup.
“I’ve never been off this island.”
“You should Madame, you should.”
My children blossomed,
Asked for my blessing and left-
Mother, mother, they called out
Waving farewell, my beloved children. 
These days, I disguise the meager
Remains of my household
Into figures resembling a family.

I was trained to become a fortuneteller,
Offer my life as service to my clan,
Stay pristine, protect their welfare,
Divine outcomes.  My gift as seer
Kept bad omens at bay,
People I advised prospered.
The day I asked him to love me,
Followed him as a hungry beggar
Follows the bread truck,
That day I knew I could never
Return to my homeland. 
I paid no attention
To the winds whipping my back
Didn’t listen to the thunder sounding
Its warning, didn’t heed the dust
Rising up to block my path. 

Outdoors we build a fire
So the old woman can
Sacrifice.  She lets the blood
Drip from the throat to find
Its way toward the flame. 
The goat takes long to die.
The cut is not clean and the blood
Sputters with irregular force.
The animal kicks then slowly grows still,
A soaked, wilted mass of fur.
“You were not born to be loved,”
She answers, reading the red
Markings crusted on the dirt-
“There was another purpose.”
“Does the sea love me, mother?”

She stares at me silently.
My mother-in-law will not lie at divining,
She knows the punishment for such a sin.
It’s now my turn, and I’m to study the land.
I turn the animal, still warm, almost
Alive.  I slice its gut, remove the liver,
Spread the intestines just so.
Carefully I read the viscera, then talk
About the fruit, the harvest, the taste
Of the olives and the oil, the flavour
And strength of the wine.  I count
The children that will be born and
Foretell whose breast will feed them.
There is more I can say, things
Clearly written in front of me,
Illuminated by the blazing fire.
Yet, she doesn’t ask about her son.

They’ve come from every village
To have their fortunes told.
Now, beneath the fullness of  
The moon, they form a giant circle
And celebrate.   
We bow to offer prayers,
We chop and distribute the meat.
The ritual is done. 
Slowly, the fire expires.
It is written.

Vines and bramble climb  
Slopes with swift assurance,
Navigate sharp angles with aplomb.
They reach the summit of this hill
From where I spy beyond the cliffs
Deep into a distance of aging
Memories and phantom ports.
I envision roads and towns,
Names of streams I’ve never seen.
My mind seeks with a cartographer’s
Precision, I gather strength, I nearly
Knock upon his door.   
On braver days he finds me hiding
From the sun and joins me there
On the bench, beneath the
Gnarly plane tree he loves.
This tender schemer, possessor of
My heart, how unchanged is his brow,
How still familiar his essence.  Between us
There’re no questions to be asked
Only a joining of hands,
Some easy, joyful chatter.  Leisurely
I stroke his forehead, his cheek,
We kiss, a lingering, delicate caress,
And then I cry, I cry hard,
Amid the bramble and the vines.

As I prepare to let go of my
Middle years and wait for
Evening to begin, I take stock:
I’ve labored on this island,
Rebelled against the life
I was ordained to live,
Was of some use,
Nurtured my children,
And once, just once,
Summoned greed enough
And courage to taste
The sweetest fruit of all.
I bit into its very core, drank
Its nectar, siren sweet,
Then fell, a ceaseless fall
Into the wrathful arms
Of the destiny I scorned.
How steep the price I paid!

Anything? What was the cost of this
For him?

After ambitions realized,
Adventures won or lost
As he strips off the day’s armor
And sits pensively at the hearth,
Are there any memories of me?
What is the bounty in his bed,
I wonder.  What difference?

There are none of us unburdened,
None of us entirely forgiven,
None of us completely beloved-
On his voyage, let him find  
Peaceful waters.
In front of me swells the sea
Dazzling yet ordinary:
Nothing exceptional in the light
Or the weather today.  Instead,
An everyday grace, and the whimsy
Of shorebirds foraging at water’s edge.

This then is belonging:
To my own solitary smallness,
The shrug of an ordinary day
The reveries, smooth as corn silk.
I’ve come to recognize
The bleakness creeping
In the world,
The futility of hope,
Wounds that are deep or shallow
Always painful,  
Loneliness, always cold,
Change, always impossible,
Always beyond reach. 

But thalatta, thalatta.
The sea will engulf
Everything in the end,
At the final gashing.
We will be united then-
On that late, lost hour
When all is summoned to merge,
To become one wound for aeons-
My long ago lover and I.

01 December 2014

EVERY DAY

I go to a funeral every day,
I am the widow dressed in black.

With tears always neat in place
I light a candle to squandered love
Follow the coffin at a slow pace
Garnering time to embrace  
All of the ache and the waste.

I watch the coffin, it descends
A little deeper every day. 

I got a rooster as a pet
To wake me often in the night
He screeches so that I won’t dream
And when I sleep, Morpheus is blind.

The rooster wakes me up at dawn
When my sealed sarcophagus appears
“Let’s go, widow,” they'll say,
“We have a funeral today.”
I douse them with my perfume
Give them a polish and a shine
After all, for me they keep
Unanswered love, spent valentine.


I watch that coffin, it descends
A little deeper every day

Deeper and deeper the descent
I grieve for lost love every day
I snap each bud of hope that's born
To bury it in heavy clay.

30 November 2014

BRUISING

Come,
Sip
Ruby from the glass
I wait to hear you,
Come sing
Croon a tune
A jazzy boozy bluesy one
They’re the best
Give me a tempo
In sanguine, flaming mode
Listen
To the lub dub
Lub dub
To the lub dub sounds
Of my heart
Keep time with them
Your voice has an
Addictive
Hypnotic tone
I need that fix
Just as I need the
Torture
Afterward
The torture of absence
And silence
So jump to it man
My man
Bring the brandy wine,
Sweet
Vintage port
I have decanted
And bring me your song
Jump to it lest I begin
To sing
I sound like Blossom Dearie
On crack
But still,
I can’t resist belting out a tune
Out of tune
Something of hers,
For example
I can’t resist
I believe the lies of handsome men.


Truth be told
The most excellent songs
Have a beat
Undressed
Of music
So for now
Forgo the music
And speak
In ardent tone
Of mysteries
Carved
In unrhymed
Metered rhythms
Of riddles in verse
Decide on the pages
Your choice love
My love
And read to me
With emollient tongue
Or forgo the book
And read
From the heart
Subjects you know
By heart
I wait, I smile
I listen
Read to me
A recondite portamento
You have scribed about love.
A kiss,
Not softly,
And read
Sweet to me
Again, again
My love.



I favor and fear
The intimate
Eloquent offspring
Of your contemplation
Lovely like falling in love
Is your issue
But enigmatic too,
And bruising in spots
No irenic introspection
From such a genial man
Epithelial,
Your geniality is not
But sometimes will nap
On Hypnos’ lap
Forgetting to chain
The turbulence
Protected beneath.
Speaking figuratively
I’ve felt your bite
And remember my fall
As you pulled on the rug.
But you did it
With bruising grace
And so I’ve given you
My bruised grace
Genial man
Mine,
My genial man.


My genial man
I look up
Into
The riotous beauty of
A mackerel sky at evenfall
I lower my gaze
I see
The atmosphere reflected
On the rippling water beneath
I imagine
During such moments
I imagine
I am with you
Because
That is your beauty,
The riotous beauty of
A mackerel sky at evenfall:
Sanguine, flaming
Enigmatic and provoking.
A mackerel sky portends
Of change and storm
I’ve seen the storm within you
The cloud darkening your gaze
But your shoulders are broad
And your will is fierce
And your heart
Your heart
Although burdened
And bruised
Is strong
And poisons the tempest
And remains unshaken
That too is beauty
Your beauty, love.


I close my eyes
I wait, I smile, I listen
My love, my love
Read to me
Your song.