This Is an Alternative Poem
You can read it without
your eyes, without thinking.
That is not rain drumming
down on us, just buzzing
water bees in hollow ears.
It refuses to scream even when
you slide needles into its sides.
That is not a sky surrounding
us, that is just a cage of blue,
holding two halved animals together.
There is no paper to give it life.
Its grin is not a smile at all.
That is not the Earth, it is a rock
thrown haphazardly into the lake,
its wake traveling inward.
It is only letters, the likeness of words.
It won’t ask howdowedothis?
That is not America, stunning,
its glistening opportunities are
wet concrete tucked into crevices.
It will curl up quietly, shushing
itself. It has no punctuation.
That is not a woman holding
up a sign. It is only an apparition
of cardboard and ink. A distraction.
You cannot read it. You are not listening.
Even now it is dry and drifting away.
If your path is that of a note blown through
the reeds of a bellowing accordion—
if your motor coughs like desire, on and on, clearing
salts, extracting water, keeping balance—
if your pilot calls a halt for days, then rushes
to fill you like a crossword puzzle, answers jotted in pen—
it is because each cell of the freight you carry, so much
individual sweetness, can gel into one swaying mass
and, if becalmed, swell you to the point of rupture,
sink you into this glistening body for good.
A Week After the Failed Military Coup
A week after the Failed Military Coup, you run south to Olympos. You’re camped out with his book and all your keşke. You’ve found your vine-covered terrace. Ruins fallen into green river water. A week after the Failed Military Coup, some of your friends are banned from leaving the country. Word has just come through that you’re exempt. You feel guilty for having worried over an upcoming trip to Scotland to celebrate your birthday. You meet Tarkin from Diyarbakır, who sells mussels on the beach, and you feel utterly alone for the first time in four years. You’ll feel guilty for thinking about this, too. A week after the Failed Military Coup, broad-faced women in headscarves are making gözleme (“observation”—“do you remember—?”) that you eat on the beach. The Turkish Word of the Day is insan hakları—human rights. Bahane means excuse. Korkak means coward. He talks of Syrian refugees before he fucks you. The Failed Military Coup doesn’t give you “perspective.” You don’t need—. A week after the Failed Military Coup, the water is warm. You think about keşke when you float—suspended in salt and sea—absorbing differences in light transmission efficiency. Code names. A week after the Failed Military Coup, Turkish words for “freedom” and “democracy” tattoo the headlines. You don’t know the word for “disappointment”— or
what is inverse of—
I fill our biggest pasta bowl
to full volume — flour, eggs,
oil, and yeast –
ignore the wooden spoon,
mix directly with my fingers.
The dough and I communicate.
I ask it to wake up, come alive
as I knead. It answers
with a measure of resistance.
I ignore it for some hours,
let it rest, and it responds
by growing – the impossible magic
of living yeast. A second knead,
a time to rant, to release
the week’s wrongs, to remember
the impact of this simple tradition,
survivor of every tyrant
who’s ever tried to starve us.