Hillary Keel: For Orhan Pamuk

Fall '12 TOC


"... to long to know more about this world, to understand it ..." from Istanbul, Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk
In Istanbul
I long
for Istanbul
for the sweet
ugly men
of Istanbul
who catch
my eye
and it
goes straight
to the belly
a soft
thud in my
in Istanbul – men have
this sweet
about them
dark-eyed and
boyish, they
sell corn
or carpets
they offer
tea and
a cushion
a place
to rest
while examining
Ask a Turkish
man (in Istanbul)
with a
good command
of your language
"What is hüzün?"
The man will shut
his eyes in meditation
he will shake his head
as sea wind blows
through his dark curls
You will try
to help (as
I did)
and ask
"Is it sadness?
He will say
it is not sadness
and more than
"Is it melancholy?"
you persist
He will say
it is something
like melancholy
he will say hüzün
is hüzün
The men
of Istanbul
put an arm
around my
throw scarves
at my feet
"Can't you
say hello?"
"Please don't
break my heart"
"You only gave
me 10 Lira
and I have three
small children"
after a long
taxi ride
through dense
Istanbul traffic
This week
I long
for these men
Hüzün – loss,
spiritual agony
and the grief
attending it
I long to eat
bananas and honey
sip my tea
in a Galata Bridge café
watching seagulls
swarm on the stormy
green sea
as ferry boats
merge and maneuver
into place
I long for
in Istanbul
for its minaret
skyline, for its
domed mosques
and the wailing
call for prayers
Hüzün – spiritual
from not
being close
enough to Allah
for not being able
to do enough
for Allah
in this world
I long
for the man
whose prayers
I unintentionally
interrupted – don't
know why I
walked into that
room and there
he was, prostrate, like
a baby, like
an old man – such
sweet hüzün
about him
Or Ramazan
the one who
scrubbed me down
covered me
in bubbles, who
cleansed and softened
me as I lay
on heated marble:
my back, my belly
my ass, the soles
of my feet
I lay there
and he smiled
placing his fingers
just so, pressure
here, a caress
there, how he
knew his art
Ramazan I long
for you
They say
the absence
of hüzün
causes one
to feel hüzün
In Istanbul
I long
to dance
in a circle
of belly-dancers
shimmies jingling
our gold and silver
coins as we overlook
Istanbul's snowy rooftops
and the Marmara Sea
then walk
in a snowstorm
to Topkapi Palace
to admire the Topkapi
dagger and the Spoon-maker's
to walk through
the marble halls of
the Harem, its tiled walls
and golden fixtures
my breath steamy
in the frozen rooms
as wet snow falls
in the courtyard
–        and warm up
with tea while watching
the sea, rays of light
shining through
heavy clouds onto
Istanbul's three peninsulas
Hüzün in Istanbul
is a communal awareness
of glories once possessed
and later lost
by hüzün
I sit alone
in my room
eating pistachios
and Turkish Delight
bought from two smiling
young men of Istanbul
I read poetry by Rumi
on divine passion
in a book I bought from
two sweet young men
of Istanbul
who said, "You must
have this book
in your collection."
I sit alone
longing for divine passion
I fly
through the night
searching for divine love
divinely aroused
by Istanbul's divine beauty
by its hüzün
I am dazzled
by sparkling lamps
and labyrinthine
passageways, endless
calls, the arched
ceilings and frescos
of the Grand Bazaar
where men grin
and sell me
moonstones and bras
bedspreads and chest sets
where I drink ayran
and tea to get my
bearings about me
give me one more
sip of raki
one more puff
of sweet tobacco
let me lay longer
on your cushions
be your divine dancer
in the Galata Tower
let me shimmy
in your hüzün heart
and praise you
in my poetry
wandering uphill
on narrow streets
in your ferry boats
eating sesame rings
and my boots are
muddy outside
the Egyptian market
where cobblestones
have been torn
from the road
while sweet ugly
men wash their feet
outside the mosque
unafraid of the cold
in Istanbul
Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
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