BY Frederick Seidel
Stray dogs with a red plastic tag in one ear
Have been licensed
By the city to be safe and allowed to live in the street,
So they wander around, or more likely just lie there,
Healthy, checked by a city vet, without a care.
They’re red-tagged Turks and they’re an elite.
You walk past them in the street.
They’re bums, they’re the homeless, not educated.
It’s complicated, but they’re regulated.
It isn’t complicated.
The red tag is their fez.
That’s what the republic Atatürk founded says.
The Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul
Has toothsomely been called the best hotel in the world.
The luxury takes place in what was once a prison.
To be a prisoner of luxury
In the old centre of the city
Is such a Turkish incarceration
To luxuriate in.
The Turkish hot chocolate the Four Seasons serves perspires
Think swarthy sweetness.
Think secular Atatürk.
But Sultanahmet has turned more than a bit Islamic.
From Claridge’s and London I have come
To the holy city of Byzantium
To see Ayasofya.
I see the Blue Mosque and I see a
Fanta-zi-a projected on the air
Whose six minarets make it Disney beyond compare,
A fat domed flying saucer with sticking-up spikes of hair.
I am awakened to the opposite of despair
By the Blue Mosque’s muezzin’s dawn call to prayer.
Another nearby mosque’s muezzin immediately starts to call.
Come one, come all!
Antiphonally back and forth, and I go back to sleep.
I dream I’m dead in the trunk of a car. I’m the survivor.
I’ve hired for the morning a car and driver.
It’s my Disney Fantasia
To drive to Asia.
Let’s cross the Bosphorus.
It won’t be hard for us.
Each day I take my pills from the day’s section of the tray
Lest the Lord disappear me and throw me away.
I find myself across the bridge in Asia thinking of Aldo Moro.
Who on the Golden Horn thinks of Aldo Moro any more, though?
I’m back at the Four Seasons.
The Red Brigades had their reasons.
Be so kind as to cover yourself please with the blanket, presidente.
We’re going to drive you to another location for your safety.
So he covered himself.
Moretti immediately pumped
Eleven rounds into the blanket point-blank.
The car was left on a street pointedly
Equidistant from the Christian Democratic headquarters
And the Communist Party headquarters.
I’ll stay in bed under the red bedspread.
A Turkish flag of red soaks the bed.
I’m better red and dead.
I’m full of bull in Istanbul.
Listen to the Voice! Climb out of the trunk! Rise and shine!
The bullet-riddled Moro is divine.
Each bullet hole is a portal to the immortal.
I’ve breathed so many million tears my legs ache.
My fellow Armenians, my brain is about to break.
I walk up the hill to Topkapi Palace past the red-tagged dogs.
I’ve heisted so much bullion.
I’ve lived a life of luxury.
I’ve lived my own Topkapi of poetry.
I’ve lived through four seasons. The muezzin calls.
The duelling muezzins call. It’s dawn. It’s dark. I SEE.
There’s the Statue of Liberty,
And there’s the United States of America,
And America’s holding the Statue of Liberty up in the air
Just exactly the way a grinning actor holds up his Oscar.
We’re in a holding pattern over land and water
On a rotating stage, circling New York Harbor.
We turn past the torch.
We’re on final approach.
It’s the end of my flight and Istanbul’s almost over.
The tugboats towing Ellis Island are the size of ants.
They trumpet like elephants.
The Blue Mosque broadcasts one of its beautiful chants.