Letter from Istanbul

Text: Süreyyya Evren

Illustration: Ada Güven

Süreyyya Evren (1972) writes on contemporary art, political theory, daily life and literature. He is the author of several books in Turkish, including the recent novel Yakınafrika (Nearafrica, 2018), a collection of short stories entitled Evsel Dönüşüm (Domestic Transformation, 2019) and a new collection of essays on contemporary art entitled Kırılgan Kitap (Precarious Book, 2019). He works as editor at Arter since 2016 and was one of the curators of Read My World in 2018.

Ada Güven was born in 2002 in Istanbul, received awards in painting competitions for high school students, and published her works in national satire and humor magazines. Now she writes and illustrates texts in quarantine in Istanbul.

The Iffy Frog

I lost hope. How will I ever leave this stomach.

Even if I could, get out, I could not, be, that same frog again. Be. On stage.

I will always remain as the forgotten one, even when I will be remembered

My skin forever parched by suspicion, Norton swallowed

Exactly 16 frogs, tadpoles, that day. One by one. Not shot.

One is called you. Then he took them all out one by one. What a body

What an ego. To swallow and spit out. Such dexterity.

I think he has forgotten you. Did you stay in his stomach? Inside?

It is a fresh autumn day, outside. On the neck of the man in front of me

Dandruff. Dust-like. Frightening White. Applause kept in the air

for the unprotected soldier who pulls out last. Such a provocateur that frog.

“In a snap worshiping and bubbling, a frog, you saw the Show”

Crossing boundaries. Trespassing. Is that you? Suspicious, pilose, the primitive kind.

On the surface of the water, along the river, one more corpse. Such sweet-sour moments

Count droplets on the water. Count again, count, look around says Norton

Quick, what if it escaped to the stage. Maybe it isn’t inside me, I counted

Wrong that’s all. Who knows which massacre, which hectic run, or

mud sunken, in total 16 frogs. I swallowed them, shadows moving

voices, discontinuities, yes, I counted again and I only spit 15 out

Applause, capes, curtain call, the only kid who managed to escape the director’s beating that day,

Not shot, even if he got shot the only soldier resurrecting, take me to the ER

Norton the frog swallower, raising his wand, before he could even talk

Sitting and standing up, moving patterns, mister, your wand

Designer, your sweat, the dandruff on your shoulder, the repetition in your

Throat, one by one, or rather they got off first yes, increasing

In a snap worshiping and bubbling, a frog, you saw the Show

One more frog, wow, it’s like they’re candies, only

He swallows them one by one, swallows them in front of us, you are there

Then it’s time to spit it back, one by one again, certain things

The real frogs, from the pharynx, the stomach, what muscles, what reflexes,

One by one upside down, for real and in one piece, maybe your admiration

Is spat out, croaking, for us, maybe it’s your mastery

Look: The ability to recall something you swallowed, to renounce

Holding it there, pretending to swallow it, recalling it, it could also be a needle

The frogs, how deep do they fall and how far do they come from, I don’t know

The Show is over, we are drowning in applause, my mouth is filled with dandruff

Sweat and croak, we welcome the holy dance, maybe it is disgust

Whereas him, frozen is his face, he runs backstage without further ado

He doesn’t hear our applause, he’s unaware of our prayers, in his stomach

Full of doubt: did the 16th frog stay in my stomach, I counted

Counted, 15 in total, did I count right, the team, on stage, maybe

Nervous, eyes wide open, hands and arms, we are counting

The frogs, be certain, be absolutely certain, someone has stolen a frog

Is it possible that he hid, because here are 15 for sure, somewhere, you are sure

Are you, sure, are you, quick to the hospital quick their cries, quick!

“Did I spit out one extra frog from my mouth or did it stay inside me?”

Has one end of that most perfect job failed and made it all go bad?

Noah knew, already from the first reunion, did I

Spit out one extra frog from my mouth or did it stay inside me?

Does he keep count? Is the poem in place? Did it empty itself in me?

Before falling asleep you were counting sheep and when you fell, strangely

One of the sheep remained out of slumber on its own. They are covered with moss

Now the 15 lifeless tadpoles on stage, statues of stone, did you hear

They turned to orderly frog bibelots, the 16th frog is alive

In Norton’s stomach, waiting to be lavaged, reinvigorated, only you

On your way to the hospital, as you were throwing a coin, heads or tails, if it is

Tails, that 16th frog, that self-probability, in the odds of the other 15 heads

He toured the whole warehouse, held the lifts in between his fingertips

The howling of the earth, its emptiness, the possibilities of writing and biting

Now that it stayed in the stomach the others too will freeze, they will stay

The 16th frog’s way of making itself, his gusto of being, says Norton

He’s always been the one trying, making the others exist, the one who gave up and started again

He forced me, he forced himself to be lavaged, in the stomach, you know

It says on the way, we are supporting it, even you, give support

We are with you, and so the 15 others must be lives turned to stone in the room;

I didn’t tell about the hall, sorry, in the big hall, endless like leftovers on a plate.

Süreyyya Evren

Translation: Canan Marasligil

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