Istanbul – a postcard

This poem hails from a happy accident en route to Cotonou, when a missed connection landed me an unplanned overnight in Istanbul. Although there wasn’t time for any proper sightseeing, I got to enjoy a cardamom-spiced cup of authentic Turkish coffee and chat with a traveler from Saudi Arabia for an hour about reasons to come back to Turkey at the next opportunity.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen Russell Crowe’s directorial debut in The Water Diviner, a cup of Turkish coffee plays a very special role in two enchanting scenes that pair Russell with the luminous Olga Kurylenko at a hotel restaurant in Istanbul. So needless to say, I was over the moon to be sipping Turkish coffee in Istanbul myself.

I also picked up a novel at the airport by Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, entitled Snow, about a poet’s perilous journey home, if home is where the heart is. This poem is a response both to the novel and to the brief glimpses I had of modern Istanbul on my stay. Next time I travel by way of Istanbul, I will find a way to spend more time exploring. The quoted phrases are from Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.

If “moonlight can prevent the leaves from stirring,”
forgo this little walk along the lighted
waterfront and be still, just an hour, leave
the newspaper by gaslight at the tea house
with the bachelors and tourists and spies,
and await the muezzin without looking
at your watch. Let the ismuth and its music
crown “the static side of moonlight” on the shore,
new electric minarets notwithstanding,
at a certain remove from underpasses,
overpasses, clover leafs and shopping malls.
What am I saying? Even the ocean’s changed.
Even so, stay an hour for the streetlights.
In the concrete shadow of the wharf, listen
to the pilgrim gestures of the spotlit tides.
Listen for the phrases later architects
of understanding will recount to us, no
newfangled revelation but a coming-
into-being of a people raised on light
and electrostatic everywhere-here-now
expectations of the music of the night.

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Filed under Acting, Directing, Poetry, The Water Diviner

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