I see its kittens playing hide and seek around
Mossy, lichen-crowned stones carved in Greek
Or perhaps between the tombstones of dervishes
While a sea air, the city’s lungs
Carries the scent of salty journeys
I love her ancient painted churches
And grand mosques
In which each tile alone is a masterpiece
How can a place be both so stately and so intimate?
I could walk through the Egyptian bazaar
With my eyes closed
To remember the smell of spices
And olive oil soaps
For a lifetime.
Cats, seagulls, and the call to prayer
The song of the boza seller
The rattle of a streetcar
The clatter of hookah-smoking tavla players
The clink of the tulip tea glasses
The smoky scent of grilling meat
Or perhaps the sweetness of chestnuts
Or the mellow earthiness of roasting corn.
I was not born in Istanbul
But something of me was born there.
And it belongs to me
And I to it
Like a mysterious lover
With a surprising sweetness that matures like a grape.
Istanbul is my heart’s hometown.
Embraced in an ancient dream
That I carry wherever I go.