Catherine Gonick’s poetry has appeared in publications including Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Live Encounters, Notre Dame Review, New Verse News, Sukoon, and Forge, and in anthologies including in plein air, Grabbed, and Dead of Winter 2021. She works in a company that combats the threats of global warming through climate repair and climate restoration projects around the world.
Touring Topkapi Harem You Imagine
Here is where you were born and
Mother picks the concubines.
Most are imported, but, like you,
many emerge in these quarters.
Mother controls the vast family, grows
the bureaucracy. Watch out, she has eyes
in the walls, ears everywhere.
The palace is beautiful, lavish,
but smaller as you realize
you have grown up confined
to these rooms you can’t leave.
Like the blue-and-green plants
whose patterns cover the walls,
your life here changes
only to repeat, while you wait.
Far below, boats cross the Bosporus.
If you could reach it, you’d sail
back and forth, east side to west side,
farther, beyond the channel, to one sea
or another, the world. You would strip
off your clothes and put on a sailor’s,
stoke the boiler, hoist the jib, watch
dark water curl under stars. But it’s time
for tea in another tiled room.
Visit to Robert Graves in Deià
We sat treed by a boar in a terraced field
high above the seaside town. We’d traveled here
so my boyfriend, a find from a college
poetry class, could call on the great poet.
As the black beast circled our oak
I recalled the boar was sacred
to the White Goddess and that time
in Berkeley when my boyfriend asked
if women had souls.
We’d climbed up from the village that morning
after swimming in Graves’s favorite cove.
We had yet to look for his famous home
of green-shuttered stone, his garden
of edible trees—fig, orange, lemon, and almond.
The old poet knew nothing of us, but we’d heard
that his current, teenage muse denied him her bed—
which he (and his wife) might have preferred.
The Goddess does as she pleases.
The boar would prove to be only a pig
bred to become spicy chorizo, sobresada,
my boyfriend a tourist who departed
without having met the master
and his friends, inhaled his hashish,
relished a single line of his ecstatic poem.
On Business in Istanbul, Over Coffee
We learn that this year, Eid al-Adha
and Yom Kippur coincide.
It’s the same holiday, my husband observes.
Yes, says our Turkish partner. We honor the father
who was willing to sacrifice his son.
Isaac, says my husband automatically.
No-o-o-o, says our partner. Ismail!
We’re surprised by his surprise. How to bridge
We are all children of Abraham, my husband offers.
Ibrahim, says our host.
Cordiality is restored. Would we like more coffee,
more almond cookies?
We visitors had read of this difference at the heart
of our stories.
We had to be there.
Poetry in this post: © Catherine Gonick
Published with the permission of Catherine Gonick