The Golden Horn

You were late when I arrived at the Blue Mosque,
The palace was closed, so we sat by a tree.
You unveiled your gift, ate the cake I brought,
And we finished lunch not knowing what to see.
Your eyes sparkled at the shore and you bought
A pair of simit rings, and led me aboard.
I sang while we waited to leave the dock
And float past palaces turned seaside resorts.
We stood at the rails, and you took our rings
To offer crumbs for the pursuing gulls.
Tossed ahead, they caught them on the wing
Or plucked them from the water in a sweeping lull.
We tore apart our rings with laughter and grin,
Throwing piece by piece headlong into the wind.


Here the palace turned to rubble,
The ruined town, the wasted land,
Here the lives cut down to stubble,
Here men were turned to dust and sand.
Here the landless beat at the gates
Before the Beast consumes them;
Those feeding it yawn as they wait
The climax of their Coliseum.

Hear the cries of orphans, widows,
Childless parents, poor and pleading:
“Please, life was undone by foes —
Please, I was someone, now, nothing.”
But the mosques closed and locked their doors.
While even the church tolls its bells,
That all may come who flee the wars
And barter for a worser hell.

Far off lands offer sanctuary,
Neighboring princes shrug away:
They change the channels on TV
To see themselves on Judgement Day.


Do you remember the time I told you
Our love was to last “forever”
Even beyond death? Well, that wasn’t true.
Whether I believed it at the time, whether
I suspected it was more poetry than prose,
Or whether I cared one way or the other,
Is hard to say — but a rose is a rose,
And thankfully we’re no longer lovers.
You may think I was surprised by how quickly
Your star fell in my heliocentric view,
How your starved ghost became hollow and sickly;*
Yet what shocked me was not my truths being untrue,
But how soon such promises were made again,
And how ready I was to believe them.

*You might think that, you might very well think that; I could not possibly comment.


You rest in some Dardanellean tower,
And I imagine you at your sacred tasks,
The ablutions you make from hour to hour,
Before wrapping the veils of your masks.
Yet a tumultuous gulf is between us
And its dark waters swirl with menace,
So if diving I am tossed and aimless,
A high price may I pay in penance.
But if you light your lamp to guide my way
I may pursue that golden, flaming star
Waiting on the shore for me to say
A word brought to you from that shore afar.
And if your flame to your chamber bids us,
There dim the lamp — your soul is light enough.


O my love, I have been intimate, near,
In passing flashes, yet now all is waste
And injured I cannot rise above fear:
The memories remain, the joy is erased.
I live by a spring, I bathe but am not cleansed,
And outside there is sun I do not see,
By love alone my shattered heart may mend,
As I wait for a sweet voice to ask of me.
But what else is life but being near you?
Oh, to be given to you; you to me—
I will be faithful to you, true—
With you everything can be—
Without you I am unwhole and desolate—
With you, reborn, and together we beget.

Our Last

This will be your last poem
When I say goodbye
When I speak of love forever
Until the day I die.

But you’ll forget me;
Maybe one day I’ll forget you too
And one day there will be a day
When I’ll never think of you.

I won’t think of you when I’m walking home
I won’t even think of you in my prayers
And wherever I am whenever I am
I won’t picture you there.

But maybe you will remember—
I almost want it so,
That every day there will be a moment
When you recall what you let go.

So fare thee well and all of that
I must be on my way,
I must head towards my tomorrow
And you’re my yesterday.

Tous les matins du monde

All the mornings of this world never return,
Never the same dawn breaks, the same stream flows,
Nor embers glow after their heat is burned,
Nor our lives relived in this world, God knows.
No breath returns to us unspent once breathed,
Nor love unsaid, nor hate unspoken,
Nor can passion be unfelt once unsheathed,
Nor heart unchanged after being broken.
And never shall you be returned to me
Unless some mercy reunites our hearts,
And never this forlorn soul rest freely
If so unlovingly we are to part.
But if love returns neither you nor dawn
Then you—and all my mornings—now are gone.