Rowing East, Rowing West

17 June 2017

Through the gold-scrolled
afternoon air
came the haunting
muezzin’s call.
We had just come,
by ferry, down
the Bosporus to the Golden
Horn.  The shores were jammed
with boats.  The Bosporus
lay a weaver’s frame, boats,
like shuttles, weaving its gold
garment, ever anew,
between Europe and Asia,
Asia, Europe,
below the watchful
eyes of the Hagia
Sophia, the Blue
Mosque.  Both shores
were a clatter of buildings
and people, an electric
current of life, a current
that pooled, then spilled into the Spice
Bazaar, that spread before us,
like an aromatic carpet:
cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, pepper,
nutmeg, cardamom, star anise,
each spice a little woven boat of taste
to ply the tongue.

Spilled the current of life
into the mosques,
where we watched ablutions
being performed in the forecourts.
Spilled the current into the church
of wisdom where, on the walls,
Christ’s frescoed face
looked back at us.
Spilled the current through the lush
garden of the Seraglio,
while all the while below,
in the Strait, boats shuttled,
weaving the garment with design,
among them muscular
men rowing cargoes,
from ships to shores,
shores to ships, amidst
a cornucopia of the world’s
cultures enriching the weave,
brought to the fabled
city by two seas,
Black, and Marmara,
seas Jason sailed his Argo,
in myth; in reality, Constantine,
while, here, I row
them in memory.

Philip Kuepper
(7 March 2017)

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