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Topkapi

July 17, 2012

Constantinople, 1607

You want to know what it was
to be the sultan’s favourite-
Haseki.

When I crossed the Aviary Gate,
feet slipping on rubbed limestone
Iznik tiles cold beneath
these fingers, I felt history
slide over me.

Everywhere, grilles and shutters,
wrought glass bright with Asian sun,
cerulean, gold,
daily promise – caged.

I blurred into cariye – slave, oh yes,
but grasping heartbeats – music, calligraphy,
dancing footwork;

for many weeks
even worth the trade.

Through waning lunar months, I let fade
Venetian hues, contralto voice of daughter, lost
under venture capital chink.

For when I breached the Bosphorus
(blue as the Murano glass I saved)
I became plural, placed behind tracery,
accultured to silence, service,
oiled-skin acquiescence.

You want to know
how I felt
what I thought
who I blamed
if I hoped
+++++ -as swallows dived and chuckled
+++++ skimming palace walls and shaded mulberry paths.

I understood, decades strung in minutes, I was
the smallest angle in geometry,
the tiniest bud beneath curving pomegranates
tessellated, symmetrical
along green-blue passageways;

set fast (still warm)
in Ottoman gold –
+++++treasury embellishment.

In truth, I learned to loose my sovereign grip,
feel other fingers scatter me,

attar of roses,
+++++floating.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Linking to another dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night! 1 year old: http://dversepoets.com/

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33 Comments
  1. I understood, decades strung in minutes, I was
    the smallest angle in geometry,
    the tiniest bud beneath curving pomegranates
    tessellated, symmetrical
    along green-blue passageways…nice….and to loose the grip and feel others scatter you…these are great depictions of the feelings in that moment…nic ebecky

  2. When I crossed the Aviary Gate,
    feet slipping on rubbed limestone
    Iznik tiles cold beneath
    these fingers, I felt history
    slide over me.

    We don;t talk history, we make history. So others can’t help but make references to what we have
    seen. Certainly ‘history will slide over us’ but still remember! Wonderful write!

    Hank

  3. you are magical, lady

  4. there was a fragrance of attar roses and surrender as
    In truth, ‘
    I learned to loose my sovereign grip,
    feel other fingers scatter me,

    attar of roses,
    floating.
    .. as she learned to loosen ties – very nice taste of the orient Becky – Mmmm Lib

    • Thanks, Lib.. appeciate your reading. Yes, I was trying to figure out how a girl sold into a harem would survive, and thought letting go of agency might be one possibility… who knows… but the visit got me thinking.

  5. Outstanding and stirring piece, Becky. Loved the sensations of this visit. 🙂 ~ j

  6. I understood, decades strung in minutes, I was
    the smallest angle in geometry,
    the tiniest bud beneath curving pomegranates
    tessellated, symmetrical
    along green-blue passageways…loved esp. this part…great work on conveying both, images and emotions

  7. poemsofhateandhope permalink

    Your use of language ALWAYS amazes me….just the way you put the words together! You definately have your own style, and be I think would be so hard to immitate. Loved the sense of history you painted into this one…a picture of a young woman? A slave? But I also sensed her connection to royalty, and how although not free necessarily….she became accustomed to sights and sounds that others might not see so easily… Very interesting subject matter , and thought provoking…..standouts for me- loved the thought of ‘history sliding over me’

    • Thanks a lot Stu.. good to hear your thoughts and how you read this one. An alternative to holiday pics… Yes, based on real girls, but an individual history I invented while wandering round the Topkapi Palace on my hols 🙂

  8. Fascinating poem with so much history and mythology about it. Great work!

  9. Emily permalink

    What a beautiful point of view you’ve chosen. “the smallest angle in geometry” might be be favorite words here, but the whole thing makes for an entrancing read.

  10. I understood, decades strung in minutes, I was
    the smallest angle in geometry,… great lines to express emotions

  11. I thoroughly enjoyed your visit to her head, full humanizing detail. I bet the trip was amazing. Your diction, as always, is spot on. Fantastic!

    • Yes, Anna… swamped with pictures, ideas and images… was fun doing the research too. D’you think there’s a calling for historical fiction-poetry..haha

  12. “I felt history
    slide over me” … Oh yes, this is excellent.

    “daily promise – caged” … Goodness. This is exactly how she felt. Of course. Even the favorite is still a possession, stored for future use.

    “I blurred into cariye – slave, oh yes,
    but grasping heartbeats” … This is powerful. I like the double meaning in “blurred” … she blurred when in the midst of them; and also, she as a person blurred, turning into concubine seemingly without identity.

    “for many weeks
    even worth the trade” … Some things are exciting when they’re new. But they do not remain as such for long.

    “contralto voice of daughter, lost” … How sad.

    “I became plural, placed behind tracery,
    accultured to silence, service,
    oiled-skin acquiescence” … My favorite part so far. Gorgeous language describing painful loss.

    “I understood, decades strung in minutes” … Another powerful line.

    “I learned to loose my sovereign grip,
    feel other fingers scatter me” … How else could one manage being a possession?

    “attar of roses,
    floating” … She is beautiful, scented, perfect … a nod back to this earlier line: “oiled-skin acquiescence” … Her essence (and compliance) has been liquified so that it can be used for someone else’s pleasure. But she, as a solid, no longer exists.

    Lovely work, Becky.

    • Wow, Shawna.. thanks for that detailed commentary.. very kind and means a lot to know that my intention has translated to your reading 🙂

  13. This is crammed with so much it becomes physical layers you can be touched by and feel

  14. I love the beauty of summer & it’s colour in your wonderful poem…”as swallows dived and chuckled
    skimming palace walls and shaded mulberry paths.” …”the tiniest bud beneath curving pomegranates
    tessellated, symmetrical
    along green-blue passageways;” ~ rich & gorgeous!

    • Thanks, Louise, so interesting to see which parts each reader connects with. So, I’ll soon be in the UK… summer ready for me yet?

  15. Hi Becky – this is terrific. It reminded me of an Byzantine mosaic – glittering, blue too. The Haggia Sophia – and I’m not spelling that right, but all mixed up with the palaces, blue mosque. k.

    • Yes! Whizzed through the whole area…. was all so amazing. Could only scratch a tiny bit of the surface here, but being there was exceptional. Thanks K, love how you describe yourt response.. thank you :0

  16. look at that naughty face!!! (she knows – what i know!)
    The sultana of swing… I’m a kebab to your delight – lol …
    Turkish Nights never tasted so good…
    look at what you brought back from your holiday, aint it good!!!

    I once brought back something V exotic from Thailand…
    its ok, i’m better now 😀

    a great write,
    better to read 😀

  17. Not often I get a poem in my comments box.. lol… love that you can’t switch it off 🙂

    Thanks Arron… great having you as a reader.

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