Desperate shards of grass
Gasp under an exhaust fog
Under the weight of industry’s poison.
Muslim schoolgirls with their tartans
Side by side burkah stilettos
The manicured face peering through
Scanning the lingerie storefronts
Of crotch hugging jeans and
Knee high boots.
In a nation built on strategic alliances
I am alone
And trapped once my feet are out
The bulletproof apartment door
Heavy as the man who died
For gluttony’s sake.
Perching on a towering window seat
Vertigo makes it hard to eat
My stomach roils in this sterilised
Airport airplane office.
There is no air.
My face wrinkles
My eyes burn staring at the screen
Or the toxic landscape
Colored only by traditional turquoise
Bright colors apartment complex
High rises, no houses anywhere.
Mauve, taupe, chartreuse, blocks.
They do nothing to brighten the landscape,
Their colors blend into the grey and emerge
From the haze like an apocalyptic secret.
The silence of human traffic
The indistinguishable babble
Of foreign sounds.
From dark to darker
As the Istanbul day
Turns into Istanbul night,
The film of filth
Remains a hanging noose
Over the landscape.
I wonder how many died
To create such foulness.
Festering fumes of exhaust and cheap perfume
Mangled with cheap tobacco
Cloud the city of exhaust and hanging air grime.
Skeletal smokers faces,
Choking down gulps of the only freshness
Existing in this wasteland.
Exile here means nothing:
Like Los Angeles we live on the fault lines
That lead to Hell.
Those who are needed are chased out
By masked gunmen while the useless
Rise up the ranks
Of a beaurocratic autocracy.
Alchemy becomes the newspaper
Science of editing:
Turning wordshit into gold
Inlaid with blood diamonds
The pulling teeth of writing
It is not safe
For eyes until the magic is over
And the magicians remain hidden.
Is it possible to reconcile
The hijab with stiletto slut boots?
In the heart of Europe’s darkness
Where women walk in fear
Where writers are scared to write
And the laws say you can’t speak out.
There is a law that forbids me this poem,
I could be imprisoned for an unflattering metaphor.
The dull tsunami roar of automobiles and human traffic
Is the sound of impending doom.
Is a thief.
But beware man,
A greater thief
Than any of time.
Trudge to work
For any moment when
The ground opens up
And takes the Tower with it.
I want no part of this.
Work will set you free.
How free was I on the 13th tower floor,
How free am I now at home
Blooming lilac tree
Stray cats to tease
A path outside the door.
Where am I free?
In this place
Of great history
Thousands of empires
The only thing to do at night besides drink
Is watch CNBC.
And all of a sudden
It’s real important
What’s on TV tonight.
Transportation takes you
Down the back roads of Islam’s deserted paths
Devoid of women
Full only of wolves prowling for outsiders.
On the bus
Little red riding heathen
Surrounded by men
Knowledge that outside is just as dangerous as in
I am a walking target
I am frightened.
The driver won’t let me out
Unheeding my shouts
My door pounding screams
He smiles gleefully
Evilly babbling as he drives me away
He opens the door
Now, anytime it is me and Turkish men
I feel threatened
I am terrified.
Men are menacing here.
On buses, on street corners, in shops.
Knowing I am outside their system of honor
Is knowing I am a moving target.
The bosphorus breeze
Of stagnant water and urine
The sulfur of rotting eggs
The wondering where air is fresher:
Climate controlled air conditioning
Where the stench hangs over the city
In a shroud.
Careening in kamikaze taxicabs
Choking on tobacco smoke
And traffic exhaust
I am exhausted by the act of breathing
The simple travelling of 10 miles
From here to there
The 10 miles that tarry 30 minutes
And hour and a half of stop and go
The fired up engine for the go
Knowing that if I vomited
You would hardly notice the smell.
It might even smell better than this.
We only remember trees
When they are long gone.
A rich city
Held hostage by a man
Dead sixty years
In the grave
Yet the hold of his violence
The man who erased Istanbul’s
History in hopes of westernisation
Totally and utterly failed.
I am beginning to understand
That the headscarf is a quiet protest
Against the ghostly figure of Istanbul’s past
The man who blocks Turkey’s entrance
Into the future.
The quixotic figure
More legend than man
More story than warrior
More fiction than life
Still wielding a guillotine power
Over the people of this wasteland.
There is nothing
For me here
Not in the fridge
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
The tri-annual gang rape
The tortured eyes downcast
Fearful striding away
From any touch
Take the food and run.
Only males look back.
This city is the disappointment of broken promises
And fallen plans
The aching solitude of loneliness
Among so many millions.
Through the peephole I peered
A fishbowl view of others’ lives
I kept time with tears