Else

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - Bi˙rgül og˘uz

Trans­lated from the Turk­ish by Aron Aji

Al­ready, the past is like a drowsy ele­phant. Ele­phants are nice but they make heavy metaphors. How far can you get with one chained to your an­kle? Luck­ily, there aren’t any on the is­land. Süheylâ says they won’t let ele­phants ride the fer­ries. All the bet­ter. There isn’t a soul around. Win­ter, fire­wood, two pen­sion checks, a house left from a father . . . What else. Süheylâ says, “The snow has al­ready blan­keted our foot­steps. And two is a good num­ber.” Com­pare her to a sum­mer’s day? No chance! She is love­lier, far gen­tler and more sweet. The earth has grown cold, the day­light pale, the shut­ters are drawn. Though not be­fore Süheylâ man­aged to gather all the sum­mer’s re­mains she could find and tuck them away in a hol­low carved into win­ter. Like any mourner, she hoards well. She jug­gles or­anges, toss­ing them up into the air, even laugh­ing. It’s good for the brain, she says. As she laughs, car­damom milk drips from her teeth, wild sum­mer blos­soms, ten­der leaves, plump berries come pour­ing out of her mouth—they seem im­per­vi­ous to death. She is the priest­ess of or­anges, a cheer­ful mourner, old jon­gleur, tart egg­plant, beloved. “But soon I’ll be dy­ing,” she says. “My knees are creak­ing. And will you just look at the kitchen.” The kitchen is a mess, the pipes are wheez­ing, the faucet drips, and the ce­ramic tiles are cracked. “But who can live life only when it’s beau­ti­ful. . . .” Death can’t taunt Süheylâ’s eter­nal sum­mer any more. As a mat­ter of fact, she adds, “Death can’t taunt cer­tain acorns ei­ther.” She read in some book that squir­rels for­get about at least one stashed acorn out of four or five. “It’s true.” What’s more, she came up with this one: be­ing for­got­ten trumps for­get­ting. “You can’t find that in a book. It’s how some oaks sur­vive. In for­got­ten pairs. That’s good. An al­liance of two, just think about it!” So what are two rick­ety women sup­posed to do all alone? Plenty. We even picked up smok­ing. Oh, the way Süheylâ takes a drag, then blows out rings, one af­ter an­other. . . Oh my, oh my. When she was young, she wore her hair short and a jacket and she had a downy lip. Now she’s the per­fect Is­land Aun­tie—hair in a bun, pearl ear­rings, camel­hair coat, and all that. On the phone, she calls the green­gro­cer’s porter “my son.”

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