In Troy the visitor’s a demigod
and sees millennia like layer cake.
Behold the sea and battle plain below –
and then the gabble of the speaking stones,
the cries and sighs of lives gone out in gore,
ecstatic moans and agony -- but most
speak just of games or groceries or a galling itch.
A rock’s beneath my boot; down there’s the coast.
The roosters of Denizli sing until
their energy is altogether spent.
They faint and lie on earth as though in trance
and then they rise and strut renewed and with
a name among their flock of fellow birds
and armed with power from another realm.
The Denizli roosters, so celebrated for their song, are classified for competitions into one of six color groups and one of three body types. In addition, there are two categories of comb. Their song is labeled high, medium, and low in pitch, and its clarity designated by one of four terms: sad, shrill, wavy, and comic. Their crowing is marked by one of four postures: lion, wolf, hero, and pus (or mist). The best singers will start slowly, build to a climax, and slow again to conclude.
The Turkish cats have known no prophet’s word,
no sultan and no plan for coming days.
Their cogitation seems a simple thing
and yet their gaze is sharp and clear and true
and empty of the slightest grain of doubt.
The wind’s a breath, a kind of aery blood,
a message or a ship from some far port,
a bird, a harbinger, a telegram,
a dinner dish, a painting, or a god,
this wind that blew my hat from off my head.
We slid along the calm green Bosporus
past palaces and mosques and monuments,
and people ate sweet wafers and drank tea
and looked at multimillion dollar homes
and also at the great Galata Tower
from whose high top the learned Hezarfen
(according to the dervish Evliya)
stepped off with wings that he had built himself
and made the flight from Europe to the East
four miles to the slopes of Üsküdar
and then alit, looked round, and tipped his hat.
Murad the IVth gave him a bag of gold
and banished him for knowing far too much.
We drank fresh juice and watched the cormorants
with wonder though their dives were merely facts,
but truth’s required to make a warp and woof
with which the mind may weave a high-borne tale
to lift itself and all the world besides.
Evliya Çelebi in his Seyahatname describes the early 16th century flight of Hezarfen (“the thousand learned”) Ahmet Çelebi who after his flight was said to have been exiled to Algeria where he died. His brother Lagari Hasan Çelebi is said to have ridden in a conical cage propelled by a rocket fueled with gunpowder shortly thereafter.