new zealand electronic poetry centre


 Capital of  the minimal
M i c h a e l  H a r l o w

Stop-time: Galata Kebaci/Dunedin

Not wanting to serve anything
but the ‘real’ thing he served
nothing, or so his hands spoke,
and down we sat at table. Is-
lands of plates and bowls, the
cones of paper serviettes
carefully arranged, small sculpted
hills ragged at the edges. And
we ate off empty plates so deep
I wanted to touch them with my
fingers and go traveling. Tilt-
ing glasses of air, we toasted
our families’ names, mothers’
mothers, fathers long gone be-
yond way back; we talked through
mirrors of ourselves, the land-
scapes of bodies. His hands
weaving a language I understood
imperfectly, but still can
taste the resonance of, fine
print of inner speech. Touch-
ing his heart with the flat
of his hand, he asked if I had
heard the watch of nightingales
in Arnuvotkoy, ‘making love’
to the young girls who live,
as we all do, effendi, inside
the songlines of our story.
Have you? Seen them, I mean,
strolling along the Bosphorus,
arm in arm, up and down the sea
road, listening under the lace-
work parasols of trees for that
heart-stopping swarm of notes
to call down the green hills.
And they listen: touching each
other at the wrist, their bodies
light-filled with the invisible;
in their embroidered scarves
knotting keepsake loops for
love, promissory notes they
will dream through in the
watery dark above the Golden
Horn. When we finished, the
table cleared, not a scrap of
emptiness left, I called for
the ‘count’, waiting for the
numbers to appear in the open
palm of his hand. And here
at the end-words of a feast,
I begin to listen to a world
outside this carpeted room,
beyond the palette of prayer
rugs, bowls of artificial
flowers and I hear: flying
down Princes Street in a
funnel of wind, the deep trill
of birdsong from the steeped
hills of Arnuvutkoy; carry-
ing with it stop-time: a song
so rich with desire it can
cross frontiers with aston-
ishing ease, and settle as
it does now into this brief
conversation, this deep space
of an Antipodean spring.

[GE, McIndoe, 1991]


© Michael Harlow2004


Last updated 10 July, 2004