The Impossible Glamour of Istanbul

the narrow streets on the hill

leading from the mooring of our ship
were stepped and cobbled, or bricked.
from overhead they must have looked like laces
knitting together masonry walls
which lined those ancient spaces

greenhorn that I was (and am,
cosmically at least) under the luck
of many graces I walked, naive
unafraid/unbrave, and innocently unstuck,
full of ignorance and contradiction
as any boy who’d not yet had to grieve

with young others like myself I went learning,
laughing up our hill with no prescriptions
caroming off the inner walls of skulls but
singed instead by bonfire embers
scattered in fresh imagination’s thrilling burning

we turned and faced the Bosphorus
caught in an opening between close parapets
the air was clear and undefiled for us
the sun as bright as white phosphorus
for us the place was indecipherable and new
impossible and glamorous

a muezzin called his faith from roofs
but no one really knew if god was there
a woman paused to stare at three
unconscious boys in sailor suits

the muezzin’s song echoing in the canyons
of those streets was not consonant
but to our four-part fifties
doo-wop ears was clamorous
like half an argument too resolute,
too apt to drown out other ways of love,
the opposite of amorous avalanching
down the slope of years
to bury new counter-thoughts
that children of the present world
hiking up their hills will
ever be advancing

by Jim Culleny

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