By Toti O'Brien
In the sparkle of dawn, it shines cream
and pink under timid sunbeams—like
a promise. Istanbul, how long have I
dreamed about you? Istanbul—he said
when I turned thirteen—is your city-
at-soul. It is where your heart dwells.
One day I’ll bring you there.
It is nice to have a dream, although
not all prophesies come to pass
(my grandmother never got
to buy my bride veil, no matter
how long she lived).
Now I cast my lone gaze
on the sparkling domes.
My plane is taking off. Bird's-eye vision
of buildings like toys, like rosary beads.
The European and Asian sides mirror
across the strait—their edges soaked
in cobalt, their lips rimmed with salt.
Like a wound never sealed.
Like unfulfilled desire.
Like the belt strangling Berlin
before the wall crumbled.
In the shadow of Rio
de Janeiro, Niteroi.
defines the other side.
Sometimes we do.
This was only a plane stop. I won’t
visit the town. Not without you but,
please, know I saw it, and its
double, beyond—which you
didn’t mention. And I am left
to guess if that’s where you
thought my soul dwelled.
Stamps were ripped off from mail
and then soaked in water. Overnight,
they floated like lotus flowers
inside porcelain bowls. When
the glue loosened up, they were lifted
with a pair of surgical tweezers.
A few were bought in shops, where
old clerks wagged huge magnifying
glasses. All were stored in leather-bound
books, sometimes stacked on shelves,
sometimes (one by one)
ceremoniously spread on her lap.
The entire world was there
and it turned as she turned the pages.
The Eastern domes, meringue-shaped,
almost tasted of sugar
and the Japanese girls, shyly smiling,
spun their delicate parasols.
How she felt herself shrink, compressed
like a whisper funneled into the thirsty
open ear, like a beam of light borrowing
the keyhole to the bedroom. Sucked in
by a dented square filled with beauty.
Eden lost, Eden not yet found.
About Toti O'Brien:
Toti O’Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. Born in Rome, living in Los Angeles, she is an artist, musician and dancer. She is the author of Other Maidens (BlazeVOX, 2020), An Alphabet of Birds (Moonrise Press, 2020), In Her Terms (Cholla Needles Press, 2021), Pages of a Broken Diary (Pski’s Porch, 2022) and Alter Alter (Elyssar Press, 2022).