Category Archives: Reflections

Remembering . . .

Remembering the unforgettable ride to Sinop at the Turkish Black Sea where my dear late uncle took us way back when . . . (I have not been to Uzungöl, the location depicted by this photo but witnessed similarly breathtaking sceneries. That breakfast spread looks so good right there!) / Artık hayatta olmayan can dayımın bizi Sinop’a götürürken gördüğüm unutulmaz Karadeniz manzaralarını hatırlıyorum. (Bu fotoğrafın odağı olan Uzungöl’ü hiç görmedim ama nefes kesen benzeri güzellikleri gördüm o yolculukta. Şu kahvaltı sofrasında bulunmak ne güzel olurdu!)

Photo Credit: Free Online (Uzungöl, Turkey)

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An Online International Literary Journal (Taking Immense Pleasure in the Work of Others)

The Facebook Page: INNSAEI JOURNAL
infoinnsaeijournal@gmail.com

My introduction here is an utterly modest one. I want to hope that you, dear reader, will find and take the time to inform yourself about the accomplishments of the incredible INNSAEI team, Orbindu Ganga and Tejaswini Patil Dange, with which they have marked their literary journey in a short amount of time.

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“Emory Douglas”

Emory Douglas

1968
Summer Olympics
The medalists’ podium for the 200-meter race

America’s own two Black athletes,
Tommie Smith and John Carlos –
One, the recipient of the gold medal;
The other, a silver-medalist

Visual history depicts these winners’ fists
Inside black gloves as they raise them into air

To bring to the attention of the world
The centuries-long oppression of Blacks,
AKA the good ole American way

As Smith and Carlos make their unspoken voices heard,
Their medals are being taken away

Standing against the brutally discriminatory
and fear-, hatred- and violence-filled white-domination
is enough reason to strip them both
of their justly earned honors,
you say?

Nay!

A white Australian runner, Peter Norman –
A silver-medalist, chooses to stay with his fellow athletes,
Though sans fist, to show solidarity
He thus lends hope to humanity
And reminds us all of the foundation of our existence:
Unity within diversity. Unconditionally. All-inclusively.
Watching unjust actions unfold for even one of us silently
Is, after all, complicity. Put simply.

Still . . .
The Black athletes
Get their Olympic medals stripped off
They had, however, earned them justly

Promising careers, ruined . . .
In the hands of the white powers that be

How about the rights to practice Civil Rights advocacy?

Huh, what a laugh!

Such freedom for Blacks does not come for free!

In the year of 2014,
A visual art project, “We Can Be Heroes”,
Makes waves across the borders of many a country
The piece is crafted collaboratively
Between the Australian artist Richard Bell
And the American graphic designer Emory Douglas

Bell and Douglas not only eternalize
For the 1968 Olympic medalists
Their moments of protest on an Olympic-athlete stage,  
The stance they took against discrimination and inequality;
But also demonstrate injustices to be witnessed globally

As it is evident throughout the volume in your possession,
Our collective efforts geared toward poeticizing
Some segments of the once diligently-recorded reality
Jointly, we are anon sharing the marvel of a phenomenon;
Namely, how Bell’s concept of ‘Liberation Art’,
Coupled with Douglas’ talent in design and illustration,
Grew larger than life and entered the annals of history
In the form of a silent yet utterly vocal iconography

*This poem is one of the three I have submitted to the February issue of The Year of the Poet VIII published by Inner Child Press International.

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“A Simple and Silent Gesture” – New Poem

A Simple and Silent Gesture

It is August 26 in the year of 2016
in the good ole US of A.
Colin Rand Kaepernick sits in the bench
during the anthem in San Francisco
to raise awareness . . .
because “the country oppresses black people
and people of color.”
He was known not to have stood for the anthem before.

That date passes by.

Writers of headlines get busy,
when Kaepernick sits down again a day later.

Reactions are two-fold: some condemn him,
and others applaud.

The NFL speaks up,
citing the lack of any requirement on their behalf
for their athletes to stand up for the anthem.

After three days, former NFL player
and ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer has a suggestion
for this young man of higher consciousness:
“kneel rather than sit.”

Kaepernick kneels before a game on September 1st, 2016
and goes on record with his plan for a donation
of $1 million to organizations that support his intent,
as I have noted earlier, “to raise awareness”
for the centuries-long systemic racism in the country.

September 11, 2016 marks the first full day
of the regular season.
Several players kneel during the anthem.

On Sept. 27, 2016, Kaepernick becomes the subject
of harsh criticism from the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The young man responds: “He always says make America great again.
Well, America has never been great for people of color.
That’s something that needs to be addressed.
Let’s make America great for the first time.”

Kaepernick plays his final NFL game on January 1st, 2017.
The 49ers plan to cut him.
He opts out of his contract instead.

The month of September of the same year
witnesses players’ kneeling before
and / or during the anthem
without the civil rights activist in the league.

In the following month,
Kaepernick files a grievance against NFL team owners.
He cites collusion to keep him out of the league.

The powers that be, unfortunately, have a final say.
NFL season ends on December 31, 2017,
having made certain that this epic role model
for equal justice remains unemployed.
Less than a year afterward, NFL owners construct a rule
banning kneeling during the anthem.
It is ‘president’ Trump now . . . as he has made it
into the People’s House. He applauds the divisive initiative.
NFL owners soon retract the rushed rule
because of its divisiveness.

As the second straight season begins –
sans the name “Kaepernick” on a roster,
some players still kneel . . .

The third NFL season enters the world’s calendar,
and ends eventually.

No Kaepernick.

Following the murder of George Floyd, a black man,
on May 25, 2020, nationwide protests begin.
Numerous other sports organizations
join the cause of awareness,
to include the NBA, Baseball, and many more.
Kaepernick offers support.

A few months later, the NFL apologizes, denounces racism
and delivers a promise to further promote social justice.

Thank you for your simple and silent gesture,
dear Mr. Kaepernick.
Your gentle voice was and continues to be
loud enough to stay at the core
of many an equality-for all-seeking soul.
Hopefully, for us all, generations to come
will embrace your contribution to humanity,
understanding and knowing that social injustice
is our common enemy.
Thank you for showing this ‘white’ woman
that which we all-inclusively must fear.
So, in humble solidarity,
I, too, kneel.
Ever so respectfully.       

*This poem is one of my three submitted for the February issue of The Year of the Poet VIII to be published by Inner Child Press International.

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A Favorite Poem

Sinopem

the homeland enters the main vein
her scent floods to each body cell
one stunning aroma after another
i thirst in hunger pangs

etched to memory in blood and flesh
the magic of my early life
often asleep – head should feel sore
however when awake cold or ache no more
blanket soaking in her perfume
pillow, one of softest feathers
“snow falls upon who sleeps” she whispers . . .

one corner – a distinctive delight
a town in unison with its sea
unlocks the long suppressed

there!
it stretches to the harbor in cheer
main street down tea gardens of yesteryear
Divan café – loyal as ever before
hugs the aged salt factory to affectionately mend
guards before the old prison the compliant inner bay
not at all anxious by its fast descending bend
sates with secrets-devouring treats
my childhood eyes and arousing sighs
on loads and loads of mouth-watering plates
a huge piece of Revani* – apt for my sweet-tooth-fame
topped with natural ice cream of vanilla beans
delights generation after generation after generation
eight in total the loved ones of mine

farther away lies the town’s aorta
the legendary passage to famed Ada
coveting April 23rd parades of ribbon bouquets
on Çocuk Bayramı – Festival of Children . . .
flows in sync with streets wide open alleys unseen
carries along a dear one of mine
to the heart’s mind scene by scene

my eyes lock on the trail to the highest peak
one modest look to the left or the right
the sea struts its azure wealth and might

and there a breath away
dons mysteries that spectacular house
bricks worn out shutters ashen hue
still erect in humility though
vies few more breaths to accrue
ornate transoms eye the vastness of the sky
their weathered glances down upon the sea
the soil tender as a new mother’s caress
depleted tree roots soon to finally rest
as have those who were put there abreast

my heart wanders off to the faded print:
wide steps to a wooden tall entry door
a stately man – fedora briefcase handsome face
my uncle by his leg – a mere toddler
a Shirley Temple though Turkish – my mother
her tiny gleaming face ever so bright
glued to the colossal front window

my grandmother’s beauty in the dark
on her lap my other uncle – her youngest
his cruel damaged pre-natal heart 
cut off too soon his contagious delight

next to me
the unique scent of my mother
the warmest warmth of her soul

*Sinop/e of the Turkish Black Sea – my adoptive birthplace, –is the country’s only peninsula. “Sinopem” is a self-coined wordplay for which I resorted to reflect the Turkish possessive suffix. This small picturesque town is where eight generations on my mother side lived and died; “Revani”: A traditional Turkish dessert made of semolina and heavy syrup.

~ ~ ~ ~
This favorite poem of mine has first appeared in my poetry book, Aflame: Memoirs in Verse (published by Inner Child Press International on May 9, 2018)

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Short Stories, continued

“Don’t You See What You Mean to Me?”

My first love was my first boyfriend, who became my first fiancé.

Y[. . .] and I had met during our first semester in college. Having many interests in common on academic, social and intellectual levels but also through our special fondness for world literature and classical Western music, we soon became inseparable friends. There was hardly any cultural event that we would be willingly miss. Films, yes, we saw several. When it came to classical music concerts or theatre plays, however, we would make a list of our joint preferences and make sure to experience them all. In our own homes, then, we would write a review of those events and read them to one another, discussing them in great detail in-between classes.

Our friendship took a different direction pretty quickly. It happened on the night of my first folkloric dance performance. He had asked me if he could take me to the place of the event, wait until I was done and bring me back home. With my acceptance of his offer, that night marked our first togetherness outside the university grounds.

The group of which I was a member had been formed by the university administration. So, the director and the event organizers were reliable, trustable people, with common sense, I had assumed. When we auditioned at the semester-beginning, we were told specifically that we would appear in front of college-related organizations and communities. That first time, however, we were not nearly close to dancing for a scholarly audience.

Y[. . .] picked me up from home, carrying my bag filled with my costume, headwear, accessories and shoes. We left for our destination. Where on earth did we arrive? In a night club! I had never been to one, and had no intentions whatsoever to go to such establishments; not only at the age of 18 but as in never in my life. Well, there was no turning back, as I had a responsibility to fulfill. Y[. . .] accompanied me through narrow steps into a hallway. Upstairs, we had been told that the dressing rooms were down there. I still have no idea what the men’s dressing room had in store for the unsuspecting eye, but the women’s version confronted me with half-nakedness all around. And stares galore!

Our group completed several dances. A Caucasian routine had three lead performers, one male and two females. I was one of them. It is practically a mini-theater about a love story, jealousy and the male’s final decision for a bride. Each time we had rehearsed at the university, I was the bride. Here I was again the chosen female. I must have played my part very realistically, as the audience applauded me enthusiastically. After our performance, we tried to walk out of the stage, back to the dressing rooms to change. The women of the late night entertainment were waiting behind the curtains, shoulder to shoulder. We had to literally break our way in. Again, under stares. Not at all friendly.

I practically dived into my regular clothes and met with Y[. . .] as planned, in what seemed to be a sorry excuse for a lobby. He was thrilled with my roles throughout, but uneasy about where we had ended up.

There were no public transportation stops in that area. With our student budgets, we were most certainly not going to take a cab. We started walking toward our bus station. It was a chilly night, but I felt cozy having him by my side. I thanked him multiple times for all his kind attention to me and for accompanying me to and from the event. After my last words of thanks, he stopped, held my hand and looked me in the eye with so much affection that I knew ours wasn’t a standard friendship for him. “Hülya, don’t you see what you mean to me? You are not just my best friend. I love you. I am in love with you!”

My feelings for Y[. . .] had also been running deeper than in a mere friendship for a while. When he asked me where my heart stood, I admitted to him that his love was not unrequited.    

*From my upcoming book of short stories, Once upon a Time in Turkey (For some reason, I have not been able to maintain in this post the original format of my intent.)

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Ali Eymen’ime

Ali Eymen’ime, Doğum Günü’nde

İlk Dansımız

Anneciğinin ve babacığının odasında
Yerleştirdik seni önce.
Senle ben daha sonra
Geçtik yedek odanıza.
Yapışık uyudum ben senin sepetine.
Biraz huzursuzlanmıştın sen bir gece.
Çok hafif bir ışık açtım sana.
Kurdum bir de sepet-üstü
“Mobile” oyuncağını.
Onun müziği eşliğinde
Başladık ikimiz ilk dansımıza.
Adeta uçuyordum ben bulutlar üstünde.
Mis kokun, sıcacık masum bebek nefesin
Mest etmişti beni.
Sakinledin sen hemen.
Gene de bırakamadım yerine seni.
Kucağım etti ısrar ve de isyan,
Ayırırsam ben seni benden diye, olur ya.
Kucakladım defalarca o mucize güzelliğini,
Ama dikkat ederek seni uyandırmamaya.
Kokladım her bir yerini belki de yüzlerce kere.
Seni yatırdığımda sepetine,
Bomboş kalmıştı içim.
Pek bir mutluydum ama.
Dalmıştın sen bir kez daha
O huzurlu, melek uykuna.

Our First Dance

Your crib was set up
In the room of your
Mommy and Daddy.
Their spare room
Was serving you and me.
I had glued myself ecstatically
To your you-scented bassinet in there.
One night, sleep escaped you again.
I started your mobile toy
And dimmed the lights.
Then began our first dance.
I was flying atop the clouds.
Your gift of a heavenly scent,
Your sweet, innocent baby-breaths
Had enchanted my aging soul.
You calmed down. Fast.
Still, I could not lay you down.
My arms insisted with a frown . . .
I could not part myself from you.
I hugged your miracle-beauty.
Who knows how many times?
But I did so as softly as I could be.
I inhaled your scent repeatedly.
The moment I lowered you
Into your slumber-bay,
A sense of void came to me to stay.
I felt so empty but was very happy.
For you had fallen peacefully
Into your usual angelic sleep. 

From Canlarım, My Lifeblood, my book of Turkish and English poetry (Private Edition, published in December 2019 by Inner Child Press International)

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“Against the Stream”

Against the Stream

My nap was quite troubled.
A vivid dream sequence haunted me.
Though utterly disturbing,
I will never call it a nightmare.
You were in it. You, in all your beauty.

We didn’t move our lips even once,
but we did talk. Quite extensively.
I was not yet retired; just done with the day.
You appeared to me when I was ready to go home.
I was tired. In fact, exhausted. In dire need for a ride.

You looked about 40.
8 years before your death.
As well-dressed as always,
still donning a set of full hair.
Cancer-free as I have best known you to be.

For barely a minute, I was in my office
to get a few more items and my coat;
you were gone the next moment.
I found myself outside. Feeling lost.
We were to meet by your car. Near the garden.
Both, non-existent in reality.

Crowds began to gather around my suddenly little self.
There was no sight of you anywhere.
Only bodies, countless bodies, walking aimlessly.
A gigantic fish tank then appeared right before my eyes.
The garden behind it seemed so far away. Unreachab-ly far away.

I wish that I could have stayed in the realm of my nap.
If only I had stayed asleep for a few more moments!
I would have found you. I would have hugged and kissed you
one more time. Not for the last time, but one more time.

(c) hülya n. yılmaz, November 21, 2020

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“Am I a Woman Now?”

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 . . .

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“convoluted”

convoluted

sitting still,
contemplating;
body, numbed,
knowing that neither a taser
nor a bullet touched it . . .
yet
feeling safe in the color of my skin
no one has despised or violated
any aspect of my external humanness . . .
yet

sitting still,
contemplating;
spirit, in grave despair,
crying me the longest river on Earth
the at-my-face pain and suffering
of my co-human beings
have eras ego been the writing on the wall for me –
a succinct display of one of the ugliest barbaric timelines,
of a collective guilt- and shame-canvas,
cloaked in a hooded “patriotic” cape
of the palest hue of white
a sight, i no longer can bear  

sitting still,
contemplating;
mind, convoluted,
incapable of making any sense of it all –
all that which is taking place
again and again
and then . . .
once again

as i sit still,
mind, body and spirit
immersed in convolutions,
my decades-long readings
come back to haunt me repeatedly;
for, those supposedly learn-ed
and often-regurgitated pages
cannot even begin to compare
to anything that has been unfolding
right before my eyes in this century,
as long as i have lived consciously
for a considerably extended period of time, that is,
and not just once, twice, thrice . . .
but again, again and again

what continues to dominate
the stance of the willfully ignorant –
ordinary people as well as the powers that be?
an age-old prejudice,
words of unconditional condemnation,
extremely negative stereotypes,
blatant injustice in the name of justice,
self-justifying acts of discrimination,
self-justifying acts of selective violence,
a wholehearted condoning of brutal murders
that are being committed against each soul
who happens to not share
my skin’s particular hue

on and on, i ponder the events that transpire here and now
in the hope that a poem will eventually emerge
from the innermost turmoil
which each of my living cells senses to the core
having become a second skin,
my anguish weighs heavily on me,
it tears up and cries me the longest river on Earth
while my petite, fragile external frame
is faced with the onus of climbing a mountain
so massive that nothing which had prepared my self
mentally, psychologically, emotionally,
and spiritually in many a period of time before
comes even close to sufficing to serve
as a source of comfort for me anymore

i then remember a calming fact,
namely that there is also a most powerful side of me:
an all-empowering monozygotic pregnancy!
it doesn’t take me long at all to realize
that only the true “i” in me can carry my twins full-term
as can you through the “i” in you!
once born, our twins, Aequitas and Justitia
will begin their peaceful reign of goodness and truth
whatever is needed for an all-inclusive humanity,
they will instill in the hearts and minds of our youth

i am not the one to judge
if a poem has, indeed, materialized from my words
as for their impact – if any – it will remain unknown
but of one outcome i am absolutely sure:
i no longer feel any despair;
for, that self-defeating state of existence
is replaced by a boldly deep resolve
in which i unhesitatingly let myself dissolve
it is there where Ludwig Uhland’s painless joy
cuddles me with a kissing breeze:

“Oh fresh scent, oh new sound!
Now, poor heart, fear not!
Now everything, everything must change.”

convoluted?
no more!

*This poem represents but one of the dynamics within humanity that is screaming for a need of change . . . bias, bigotry, racism.

~ ~ ~
This poem has appeared in W. A. R. ~ We Are Revolution, an international anthology of poetry and critical essays published on September 20, 2020 by Inner Child Press International.

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