by Leyla Çolpan
we conjure my grand
mother as a girl
braise the restorative collards
switch kuyruk yağı for pigfat
when we think God isn’t looking.
Nine stares silent down her bird-nose
green eyes piercing green-smelling steam.
For every sea-child
I was not I was a hill-child:
friend to mountain-deer and baby
birds a-chitter off the flank
of the hills, oblivious
to every woman
I would not be.
their voices into nests.
Where the mountain breaks
their village or a husband or a father
they cast out fishing-lines of whistle
string a secret bird tongue
cross the valley’s throat, the tea-fields.
Some ride those whistles clear across
the Atlantic stake them to foreign hillsides
in Virginia plait a bridge out
of collard greens.
Generations pass, thus I
am born into a strange tongue:
half-doe, half-bird, wholly opaque. Fate
decrees I should keep boy-company, grow horns, break
hazelnuts like mountains in my cheek.
Despite it I softened, feathered
a degenerate not the father’s
fought to gauge a father’s
muffled whistling from the far
hills of his liver his own
male womb fatted amniotic
(Here, the collard-pot
mountains straddle the black
lake, down-soft, wholly opaque:
anti-mirror of their nest its throat
too deep to cough back
whatever face you might drop in.
my grandmother says you will come swimming
heavy sweet water regendering
my mouth: Earthblack cakes
my cheek too bitter to swallow
too thick to spit. Back
a father tries to take me deer-hunting.
that self in the muzzle of an uncle’s
gun, having chosen the birds, the deer
My legs go thin
I dress myself with precious spots uncountable
show off my baby-flank
chitter high-pitched to other boys.
He swears it isn’t loaded.
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