Kuşköy in Virginia
BY LEYLÂ ÇOLPAN.
we conjure my grand
mother as a girl
braise the restorative collards
switch kuyruk yağı for pigfat
when we think God isn’t looking.
Nine stares silent down her bird-nose
green eyes piercing green-smelling steam.
For every sea-child
I was not I was a hill-child:
friend to mountain-deer and baby
birds a-chitter off the flank
of the hills, oblivious
to every woman
I would not be.
their voices into nests.
Where the mountain breaks
their village or a husband or a father
they cast out fishing-lines of whistle
string a secret bird tongue
cross the valley’s throat, the tea-fields.
Some ride those whistles clear across
the Atlantic stake them to foreign hillsides
in Virginia plait a bridge out
of collard greens.
Generations pass, thus I
am born into a strange tongue:
half-stag, half-bird, wholly opaque. Fate
decrees I should keep boy-company, grow horns, break
hazelnuts like mountains in my cheek.
Despite it I softened, feathered
a degenerate not the father’s
fought to gauge a father’s
muffled whistling from the far
hills of his liver his own
male womb fatted amniotic
(Here, the collard-pot
mountains nest the Black
Lake, down-soft, wholly opaque.
Anti-mirror, its throat
too deep to cough back
faces we dropped in.
my grandmother says you will come swimming
heavy sweet water regendering
my mouth (Earthblack cakes
my cheek too bitter to swallow
too thick to spit.) Back
a father tries to take me deer-hunting.
that self in the muzzle of an uncle’s
gun, having chosen the birds, the deer
My legs go thin
I dress myself with precious spots uncountable
show off my baby-flank
chitter high-pitched to other boys.
He swears it isn’t loaded.
Leylâ Çolpan is a poet, translator, and undergraduate CREaTE Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. Hir interests include the poetics of Turkish-American diaspora, delinearization and multiplicity in language, fragmentary texts, and the Anatolian and Central Asian folk traditions. Hir current work examines Black Sea grief poetry, biracialism, bilingualism, and Sufism as queer spirituality. Ze is happy and in love. You can follow hir on Twitter @autogalatea.