Category Archives: Impulses
Bir varmış, bir yokmuş . . .
The phrase above echoes the opening lines of a fairy tale in Turkish. How often have I heard them as a child! Little did I know that, one hot summer day in 2016 while sitting on my small patio, I would conceive in those four words the title of this book, my first fictional prose – or better yet, my first autobiographical fiction. I cannot count the nights when my mother would read to me my most favorite children stories from classical Turkish literary traditions, each time starting with “Once upon a Time”. I do not remember at what age I began to talk legibly, but I suspect my first utterances were, “bir varmış, bir yokmuş” . . .
In our human existence, there is one core three-way reality: We are born, we live, and we die. Throughout that in-between-phase, we hope that our lives have mattered to our beloveds. It is the hope for permanence; that we live on beyond our death. This collection is my attempt to seek such a permanent memory for my loved ones. At the same time, it is my tribute to those beloveds of mine who are no longer here in the realm of what we perceive to be our reality. It is my way of proving to myself that their lives mattered and continue to matter.
Once upon a Time in Turkey is anything but a fairy tale. Hence, my reference above to the hybrid genre, fictional autobiography. In my stories, I indulge myself in taking the liberty to work hand-in-hand with those elements of literature that are inherent in and integral to creative fiction: the stories I share with you inside are true indeed. They are, however, dressed in imaginary attires – masks and costumes, if you will. While flashbacks comprise their stronghold, they do not come to surface in any particular chronological order. As a stream of consciousness, I have taken poetic license randomly in helping them step out of their cold-blooded and often sad realities. My intent was to construct a short-prose assembly in order to put in writing how I remembered my interactions with my loved ones over the many magical years throughout which they had gifted me with immense love, joy, happiness, and unconditional support.
Laughter, tears, surprises, enchantments, anticipations, fears, suspicions, regrets, resentments and loves . . . decided on that hot summer day in 2016 to wake up my spirit which had been asleep for too long. All the emotions, thoughts and experiences no longer wanted to be pushed back to the most remote corners of my consciousness. Nor did any of them choose to stay numbed inside my heart anymore. They demanded to be listened to. So, my unforgotten memories began to voice themselves in me.
It is my hope that you will join me around this gathering of tales; tales that traveled from my country of birth, Turkey to reach your hearts. May you receive them in their intended spirit and feel joy, however small, alongside mine with which I have been privileged to live throughout my life as a Turkish girl, teenager and young woman.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The preface to my pending book of autobiographical short stories, Once upon a Time in Turkey
Am I a Woman Now?
I had heard it from some of my friends, but had never experienced it. “It” stands here for sexual fondling.
In high school , I had to take a public bus; on my way to school and back home. A friend who lived in the flat below ours was always with me. We always stuck together for fear of what we knew from hearsay. That afternoon, we somehow got separated in the bus. It was packed. A man with a strong BO started getting close to me. It must have been either springtime or early autumn. So, I had no coat on; just my school uniform and my shoulder bag, filled with books. He managed to touch me inappropriately. I looked up and saw my friend intently examining my facial expressions and my overall body language. I held my tears back, but felt utterly dirty; all along thinking that I had caused him to do that to me.
When we exited the bus at our usual stop on the main road, I couldn’t say a single word to my friend. She too was silent. As soon as I went home, I ran to my room, locked it and bawled. I was hysterical, not knowing what to do with myself. Someone knocked on my door. “Leave me alone, please!” That someone knocked again. “Please, I don’t want to see anyone. Please, go!” Then I heard Mom and Uncle Tunç pleading with me to open the door. They didn’t give up; finally, I did. My aunt was also there. I had forgotten that they were going to come over for dinner that evening.
My aunt was a nurse. She wanted to talk with me in private. I let her. After I told her my story, all I could do was ask one question, again and again: “Am I a woman now?”
I was a late bloomer when it came to sexual matters. My description of the incident must have given my aunt all the details she needed to know. What that man subjected me to was not a sexual assault; hence, under no circumstances, would he have violated my virginity. It was a sexual fondling, for sure, but not anything beyond that.
I still kept crying for a while longer. My pride was hurt, to say the least. Also, I had now realized how naïvely I had lived to that age. My friend probably knew it all along. Perhaps that was why she seemed calm and collected on our way back home.
Long after my high school years, I noticed the news about a female-focused social movement: The Purple Needle Campaign. Whenever subjected to an unwanted treatment by men in public spaces, women all over Turkey had been poking those males with specifically designed purple needles. I remember shouting out loud: “ Yes! Thank you!”
The Purple Needle Campaign was launched on the 2nd of November, 1989. Its slogan read: “Our bodies are ours; stop sexual abuse!” Other similar initiatives have been materialized by the women of Turkey since. Not a moment too soon . . .
*From my upcoming book of short stories, Once upon a Time in Turkey . . .
If photographs were story-tellers . . .
In awe . . . incapable of articulating all the marvels my spirit has been dancing with . . .
For this Wednesday’s “Impulses”, I am sharing you with you, dear reader, one of the most captivating sights I have been inhaling since my arrival at the Pyramids View Hotel on the Giza Plateau in Egypt . . .
[Photo Credit: Self]
aren’t you afraid to go to those places?*
must i fear to live?
no, you say,
and even add: of course not!
why, then, should i deprive myself
from experiencing a loving embrace
in countries that enchant me
by people so beautiful inside and out
who despite my lack of their tongue
show their desire
to understand me
was i afraid to journey here?
of course not! no!
love is here for all
© hülya n. yılmaz, August 8, 2018
[*This poem draft is an actual account of my experience back in the States. A pure-hearted dear one had asked me this question when I told her/him about my travel plans for the summer this year. As soon as s/he heard my destinations -Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia, Macedonia and Kosovo, the above-quoted question popped up. The rest is . . . history, repeating itself: The fear of the unknown. May you live only love-filled, i.e. fearless days!]
[Photo Credit: Self]
A tiny part of one of the gorgeous terrace sections at the home of our gracious host and hostess in Amman, Jordan ~ Everything they have been offering us solely for our enjoyment has been worth an exceptional poem . . . hopefully, upcoming . . .
To connect to the Internet has been somewhat of a challenge here, in Amman, where I am deliriously enjoying an incredible stay for about a month. So, my Wednesday post comes to you belated, dear reader. Bear with me not only as far as this delay but also when the content is concerned, as I am re-visiting a poem I have shared with you before. There is a difference this time, however, and that is where else I have presented this piece of my poetry: At the Jarash Festival of Culture and Arts in Jordan. In the future, I hope to write much more about my wonder-filled experiences in this gorgeous world region. For the time being, I will suffice to let you in on a secret only: My reading of the poem below on two different occasions has met a gracious acceptance, for which I was and continue to be most thankful. I have had the privilege to recite my poem first in Al-Karak, Jordan for The Jarash Festival of Culture and Arts and then, in Amman for the Orthodox Club. While I read “routines” in English, Nizar Sartawi, our incredible host in Amman, has in his beautiful voice read it in Arabic. Mr. Sartawi, educator, is a prolific poet in English and Arabic and a prominent literary translator. With this post, I am extending my heartfelt thanks not only to dearest Nizar but also to his graceful wife, Zulfa, both of who embraced us as their family in their gorgeous home in Amman. An eternal shout of “Sukran” to you, dearest Zulfa! An eternal “Sukran” to you, dearest Nizar!
i wake up to just another day
and am soon on my way to work
a school bus waits at the curbside
its hugs, ready for the bubbly children
a parent or a grandparent is always there
seeing their babies off to their safe returns
i think back and reminisce in peace
about my own child’s schooling ease . . .
children get born also
in other parts of our world of course!
children are cherished also
in other parts of our world of course!
children are loved also
in other parts of our world of course!
some struggle to stay alive
some can only try to struggle
death finds them when too young
though it does not routinely arrive
with the intent of a personal kill
they are often left behind
without a caring guardian
for the rest of their butchered lives
they await their pre-determined fate
the notoriously grim reaper has for long
been contracted by psychopaths after all
from in- as well as outside their nations of birth
in those dispensable long-forgotten geographies
a school bus might succeed in a lucky appearance
in “neutral” zones or at a “no dispute-border” for instance
as a rare sight for sure
a notable source of pride
but only until the moment
its door begins to open wide
either to gulp down tiny corpses
or to spit them out bone by bone
(c) hülya n. yılmaz, August 2, 2017
[Photo Credit: William S. Peters Sr.]