by Leyla Çolpan

                        In this
Appalachian kitchen
we conjure     my grand
mother as a girl

                        in Giresun,
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.

The women
                        of Kuşköy,
bird-swallowers, pleat
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

wanted and
virtuously boy-blooded
            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
            boils over.)

                        In Giresun,
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.
                        In bird-speak,
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

                        in Appalachia,
a father tries to take me deer-hunting.
            I drown

that self in the muzzle of an uncle’s
gun, having chosen          the birds, the deer
            their cryptolect:

            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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