On a wet afternoon we entered barefoot the mosque of tourists
and worshippers and photographed a beautiful boy of twelve
who smiled and said he was dressed for circumcision. Outside
we watched swooping pigeons and bargained for yoyos and postcards
on earth that knew the tremor of horses of empires that rose and fell
and people that sullenly accepted the will of rulers and their religions.
We crossed a bridge over strait of blue water from continent to continent
and wept from tall buildings overlooking the city of Istanbul on mornings
when buses began their faithful ply and nights when angelic intruders
entered our room of bed-bunks and varied literature. Our friends,
they discovered little Americas and rushed in to gobble up king burgers
and shared their family tragedies and God’s mercies between songs, walks.
I know not where she came from, but she sang the sad song of Turkey
for us one humid evening, mascara eyes explaining and deflecting, footsteps
of her voice drifting into a night I thought she would not return from.
At our motel of dirty cutlery and guests that did not pay their bills,
the sad receptionist and her friend poured another drink and complained
about the men that did not love them and the children they had lost.
I saw her picture the other day from the other side of the world,
laughing, beautiful, baptized in green pool water.
We made love between many misunderstood evenings, losing our way
in cobblestoned streets, understanding some Kurdish pain but not much.
Somewhere in the east, where the mountains are cold and traditions
important, plans were being made and then blown-up bridges speak
to the country again. But on ancient ruins, tourists step on footprints
from an apostolic time, time of upheaval and persecution, days
of spiritual controversy and courage.
We perspired without shame inside a steamed room and walked out
into narrow lanes of crowded cafes and cheap fashion stores.
A flirtatious waiter tried hard with our friend on a romantic street,
a teenage boy kisses his girl before she stepped into a boat
that took her to the sprawling city on the other side of the blue strait
of ferries and fishing boats, and we yawn at bedtime together
with a nation caught between the east and the west.