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Poem for the Ninth of September

When Smyrna fell, we rose from the chairs

our grandfather made and grew unsure

what to call ourselves. We—who’d always

broken bread with them and stuttered

strange Turkish vowels—

found ourselves nervous at the picture

window watching their horses and soldiers

leaping at the delight of land, weeping

against their swords at the square

they’d christened theirs.

Mother brought oranges from the pantry;

Father took the crosses from the walls,

but the outlines remained. We had no paint

to cover them, and Aunt Maria read

1 Corinthians quietly.

We braced for brutal mornings, asked

each other what would happen if stones

came through the window, if what was ours

would eventually be theirs, if our books

were dangers.

I approached the sidewalk, gazed at

the shuttered bank and bakery; I wondered

how the holy months would be—ours

in April and theirs in May and if we’d

ever overlap again.

I loved their pide and that first olive torn;

they loved the way my mother boiled eggs

and cracked the first against my forehead

for fortune, believing God was watching.

My God, their God,

the same God dancing past our indiscretions,

the bream that floated in the sea in June.

The Aegean divided us but somehow

made us one, made us ask each other

whom we were before.

Carl Boon’s debut collection of poems, Places & Names, will be published this year by The Nasiona Press. His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Posit and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.

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