The young of Turkey, by Dr Robyn Rowland AO
Dr Robyn Rowland AO (http://robynrowland.com) is an Australian-Irish dual-citizen, annually visiting Ireland for thirty-three years, now living half-time in Connemara. She regularly visits and works in Turkey. She has written twelve books, nine of poetry. Robyn’s poetry appears in national and international journals and in over forty anthologies, including seven Best Australian Poems: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2009, 2005 and 2004 (Black Inc.), with editors Les Murray, Robert Adamson, Lisa Gorton and Geoff Page; and Being Human, ed. Neil Astley, (Bloodaxe Books, UK, 2011). Her work has been awarded a number of prizes and she has published and read in Australia, Ireland, Japan, Bosnia, Serbia, Austria, Turkey, Canada, India, New Zealand, Portugal, the UK, the USA, Greece and Italy. Robyn’s poetry has been featured on Australian and Irish national radio programs. Robyn has two CDs, Off the Tongue and Silver Leaving — Poems & Harp with Lynn Saoirse. Dr Robyn Rowland AO was an Honorary Fellow, School of Culture and Communication 2008-2012, University of Melbourne; was a member of the National Advisory Council for Australia Poetry Ltd 2010-2013; curated and presented the Poetry & Conversation Series for the Geelong Library Corporation, 2010-2013; and was inaugural Deputy Chair of the Board of the Australian Poetry Centre 2007-2009. Previously Professor of Social Inquiry and Women’s Studies at Deakin University, she retired in 1996 and was created an Officer in the Order of Australia for her contribution to higher education and women’s health.
Recent books: Line of Drift, Doire Press: http://www.doirepress.com/writers/k-z/robyn_rowland/ . This Intimate War Gallipoli/Çanakkale 1915 – İçli Dışlı Bir Savaş: Gelibolu/Çanakkale 1915, Turkish translations Mehmet Ali Çelikel from Five Islands press: http://fiveislandspress.com/catalogue/this-intimate-war; Bilge Kültür Sanat, Istanbul, http://www.bilgeyayincilik.com/kitap.asp?ID=735
The young of Turkey
In the university Simitçii the day is doused
in early morning bakery smells from
coils of hot bread basted with poppy seeds.
Turkish students read books. They turn their pages
with tender elegant fingers. The young waiter
finds ways to make your hunger disappear,
serving vegetables sautéed with spices and yogurt
when meat only is the printed menu.
The young of Turkey rise to manage hotels
in the years you have come. First gifting you
photos of child soldiers in a treasured book
to unfold your ignorance, unstitch your blinkers,
stories of their grandfathers on Gallipoli
carved inside their bones. Later their own
babies crawl into sight, the constancy of renewal.
You have to be there to know them.
The young of Turkey have Armenian fathers,
Russian mothers, Jewish fathers, Bulgarian mothers.
They see freedom in the headscarf
and in the billow of long hair in the wind.
They do not forget the man who made it happen –
his blue eyes still deeper with vision,
still looking to the skies from monument and hill,
and he takes them with him, Ataturk.
They know he untangled their language
from the grave of history, gave women the vote,
education, divorced religion from politics.
He burnt nights black making hard bargains
with the tattered uniforms of empire, to reshape
the country. He sewed back together a people
frayed from war after wars, demanded surnames
their grandparents chose, called them ‘Turk’.
When you cry out sharply, trolley of luggage
too heavy with books, veering off the curb,
they rush to lift everything from street to car,
take you carefully to your airport hotel as if precious,
not to be left afraid, alone, never lost or without
company, their kindness a balm for the fretful traveller.
Their humour overflows, tributaries that could
take them anywhere, if.
They are eager for travel, fingers closed around
the barbed wire of visa walls. Women and men,
beauty in their gleaming hope,
their longing stretches forward, eager for change.
They speak their politics with passion,
an unveiling of fear, but keep their voices low, now.
The young of Turkey cleanse your blood of despair,
make it bright as a star, ışıl ışıl, brilliant.
© Robyn Rowland