Tag Archives: Turks

AKA

17 Jun

Also Known As


My lover has an ocean flooding

Through him, filling both banks

East and west of his heart, and at midnight

The descending moon dances on

The backs of wild glistening

Blue dolphins

—-

He pulls the crescent moon down

From the sky and places it in

His pocket and I can see it

From time to time

When we bobble on boats

To the gushing wind.

The wind blows through his narrow

Sculptured cobblestone hips

And I feel I could walk forever

Belted to his slippery sea sprayed slopes.

At times we stand and glance upon

His lost, flame haired love

‘Sofia’ some call her ‘Hagia’ since

She was so loyal and pure.

Even I, can sense her greatness.


And reminiscing we walk

His sculptured arms as pillars

Firmly entrenched around my waist

As he tells me of the love of Hero and Leander

Of Chalcedon, the hippodrome and

Of Meshnun and Leila.

And suddenly he turns me

Spinning under the Sufic wool of his garment

Cosmic mana fills  and I am seized by

The elaborate seductive designs

Of his arched blue kiss.

My lips reach the dome of his thoughts

Grasping towards the heavens

And towards the divine

A timeless sigh is placed upon our souls

He bows before the silence,

Towards the emptiness of the qibla

Surrounded by a bouquet of

Carpets, tiles and the One

—-

And at night his eyes like stars

Invite me to enter the galaxy of

Rhythms and otherworldly dreams

As we waltz to the sound of the ney

On Sundays he dresses in the

Iconic compassion of a passing empress,

Soft gilded purity, seen through the silver and gold

Sustaining tesserae of the Madonna

And where is the child?

He is out sailing ships in his backyard.

He strides ferrys catching disillusioned lovers.

And waits under the bridge with his nets

The cycle of souls lost, regained

The tides of love

Never easy, fair, clean or clear.

And when I stare off into his Seljuk eyes

I see the outline of his soul,

So sharp like daggers, poles, minarets

Protruding from a shoreline of undulating hills

His ‘skyline’ is more beautiful

Than the famous yellow rose itself.

—-

At night I rest my head

Against his belly, his fanning

Breath brings me sleep,

While the call to prayer awakens me

I whisper his name,

Byzantium, Constantinople, Nea Roma, Istanbul!

Groggy I try to hold him but my

Arms cant grasp him he is so vast?!

I fidget to find him, and as

I reach for his turban I fall

Out of bed

Naked , drunk and alone……yet full of awe.



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VAN

27 Jan

Van—no, not the boxy vehicle we drag children or drum-sets around in, but the city cupped by the Zagros mountains and resting on the side of the great Lake Van. Van is the city center of Kurdish culture. Hidden in the eastern part of Turkey unknown to most tourists–unknown even to most Turks – it beckons. The beauty of its setting gave it the title “Pearl of the East” even in antiquity. Now a town of about half a million, it is today often imagined to be as conservative politically and culturally as, say, Erzurum, about 240 km  to the northwest. In fact, visitors are surprised by Van’s modernity and relative openness. Strolling though the city streets, one cannot help but notice the throngs of people walking about—women with shopping bags in hand or pushing strollers, men proudly wearing their hats, women displaying their hair or in scarves. In Van, one is meant to see and be seen, and the city exudes tolerance. The immaculate cobblestone streets display the cleanliness of its people, and the sidewalks are repeatedly swept throughout the day; restaurants follow suit. Famous for its breakfast culture, even in the late morning Van offers plenty of opportunities for eating. It is easy to find a spot and sample the local delicious honey with buffalo cream (kaymak), hot flat bread, and tea or cay (chai). Add to that feta cheese seasoned with thyme, hard boiled eggs, olives, and peppers, and that is a true Kurdish breakfast. The Seval Cahlate Salonu on Yeshil street is a favorite. Later in the day, a chat with the locals might open up several topics of conversation – Kurdish sovereignty, free press, and the future of the Kurdish people in Turkey. The new government has been listening to Kurdish complaints, and last year opened up the only Kurdish TV station. But the Kurdish station which broadcasts from Brussels is still a favorite.

Van is a dynamic but ancient place, and its long history dates back to the Urartians (c. 900 BC). The remains of an Urartian castle are still to be found on a hill in the southern part of the city overlooking the ruins of a town occupied continuously from its founding to the 20th century—a span of some three thousand years. A chronicle of the city would have to mention, at the least, Alexander the Great, the Armenian Kingdom, the Romans, the Sassanids, the Byzantines, the Seljucks and finally the Ottomans and Turks. Ancient Van was, however, destroyed by wars and invasions from 1915 – 1920. The devastation was so extreme that only a few church walls and two minarets remain standing amidst the rubble.  Still, a stroll through the ancient city rewards the imagination with a sense of how life must have been.

New Van was built 5 km to the north of the ancient city, and is as modern as most other Turkish cities. The locals know how to have a good time, and many remind their visitors that beer and wine were created in this area, and drink may have something to do with their openness. Night falls and the music strums out of every other building; Turkish and Kurdish songs are in the air. In the bars couples sit on one side, and single men and women on another. Still, they all mingle once the music has moved them to dance. The night lasts long in Van.

A traveler in eastern Turkey or the Middle east generally cannot help but ponder the long struggle and divide between the East and the West, but at least in progressive, open Van, the East does not really seem so “Other,” and the West no longer so reassuring.


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