Preparing to go to Turkish Republic of Cyprus, Aug 2001

Many years ago, 35 to be precise
I started my journeys at Cyprus
Stranded on Venus' beach
Begging entry into Israel
All night the blue-beretted UN peacekeepers yelled:

They wore bulges in their khakhis
The Greek taximen hauled them to their hotels drunk

In the sunken park in downtown Nicosia
I met drifters
The Hungarian Moslem boy with the big prong
Whose father was a diplomat
his mother, a society belle
He had escaped to this toilet

Last week at the Australia Conference
I told the Cypriot male belly-dancer about it
Place becomes a site for memory, he said
As I remembered the Phaeneromen: Mother
Stavros was 11 then
and orphaned by the Turks
before the blue-beretted bulging Swedes
came peace-keeping

At the last venue in Malaysia
I met Stephanides
I showed him the Cavafy stamp I carry with me
He was right at home in India
with no flush and no toilet paper
That's how his grandma's house in Famagusta had been
The same Gazimagusa where my student teaches

All this comes to me this morning in bed
where I sit writing this poem
behind an old one about my student
dreaming of his dead father in my bed
as I prepare for the dream-voyage of a lifetime
                                                    to Istanbul

So hard have I dreamt of this city
That when I wrote about it sister said:
I hadn't realised you'd been there
So now through good karma and airport transfers and visas
you try to reach a dream
where you've already lived

There's nothing here, e-mailed my student    Except the sea
Bring a book
Surely they have olive gardens the Turks planted
where goats strip the leaves
and coarse goatherds play
on the very stones
where the delicate Syrinx must've changed in panic into a tree
Where a few miles down the coast
Venus rose on a shell
from the foaming semen of the sea....
(The sea too is a book)
Give me 10 good poems in 10 days
                Says the webmaster Giri firmly to me


Stavros wants to be the Sultan's harem-boy in Calgary
Never mind that the Turks killed his daddy
Stavros harks back to an old Mediterranean unity
Where one sea held together Turk and Christian
in its upraised arms: One to the right, the other to the left
One to the East, the other to the West
(Stavros is the Cypriot who always dies)

Now there's a divide
Even between men and women
When the women were veiled
The dance was kept alive by boys
Men danced for men
Now they dance desire for women
but with the same steps

It is as if time, memory and the sea
Sweep over everything
Giving to everything its salt, its taste
The salt tears too
and semen
and history written in blood and dance
                            and stone and poem

I do not know how to end this poem
Because it is like love
                            long and painful and endless
                            and only all too human

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