MELTEM’s Tale

I Doubt You Have a Heart

after Louise Glück

                       1

Right off the shore of Bodrum

a calm sea captures my heart.

Scavengers sail up on us.

Beauty and science be damned!

They smell the knowledge in us

diving for ancient cargo.

They sell art to the bidders

coins and history itself.

Our sponge divers plunge deep down,

our expedition’s decoys.

Binoculars scan for us,

but we hide beneath the deck

ready to salvage the wreck.

 

It’s my time. Kemal whistles.

He throws over a buoy.

Bubbles billow up.

Water pressure presses

My fins finesse me down

Turtles, groupers float by

stare at my intrusion.

My old dream of diving

began in libraries

hunched over reports

researching legends

feeling the horror

drowning men, the sunken ship

I am now approaching.

Kemal points out the wreck

and swims up for breath.

My diving partner taps his watch.

I nod and try to calm

my heart and my breaths.

Eighteen meters down

the shipwreck looms large

a silent refuge

for fish and yellow sea whip coral.

A slight current pushes me off the ship.

Encrusted coins, glass, intact amphorae

fill my mind, fill the mesh bag

I clip to a ready rope.

I tug on it twice. We leisurely ascend.

The warm Mediterranean sun caresses my face.

I hear the wavelets slapping against my mask.

Our exploration of the Gelidonya treasures

doubles our archeological pleasures.

                          

                               2

At the Institute

we arrive in triumph to register our find.

 

That site is already registered.”

 

Impossible! We discovered the wreck yesterday!”

 

The papers are all in order.

For dives there can’t be a surfeit.

Your permit, therefore, is forfeit.”

 

The pirates did stalk us,

jumped our claim.

But Kemal knows a way.

His diver buddies will take care of everything.

The recovered amphorae

the pirates tried to fence

fell into the hands of the police.

The ship they chartered will not start.

It seems the engine is contaminated with sand!

 

At the marina

“nobody knows nothin’ about nothin.’”

The pirates have been arrested

as has been the official they had bribed.

Our permit moves from forfeit to active

and we toast our luck with raki.

 

Next step—lay a grid and map the area

and catalogue everything we haul up.

We need photographers

land-based and PADI -certified.

 

I am proud to help protect

my homeland’s patrimony.

In Bodrum, I left my heart.

That dive, my testimony.

 

                               3

Ömer perks up.

I’m available.

I can be in Bodrum in May.

By chance, what is the pay?”

 

After her talk ends, Meltem

slumps her shoulders.

She shows Ömer the letter from her father:

It’s stupid to study archaeology.

You’ll never find a good husband that way.

It doesn’t pay. Be practical.

And Erzurum, so far away from Bodrum.

Why did you even apply there?

You’re wasting your time in those savage winters.”

 

Meltem sounds off to Ömer.

I can’t even read the rest to you. Here:

When the school year is done,

You shall return home,

find a proper occupation.

I cannot support your dead-end.’”

 

Ömer tries to be helpful:

Would it make any difference

if I talk to your father?

I would like to see Bodrum anyway.

I’d photograph the wreck

from the safety of the deck!”

 

You do not know him, Ömer.

It’s no use. Words and logic are for naught.

If only he had a heart.

Besides, my mother has already chimed in:

Here’s her letter. It’s even worse.

I never could never pursue

my career as a classical pianist.

Your father said there would be no time

for six hours of daily practice

caring for three young children.

My fate shall not be yours.

You shall continue

your underwater life.’”

 

What about me?

Pirates thwarted me.

Sponge divers saved my enterprise.

Dad dictates.

Mom interferes.

For once,

I’d like to be the one who removes the pebbles in my path.

Am I  just a gentle wind from the south,

too small, too cute, too accommodating to resist?

And you, Ömer, I don’t want your help either.

I will speak to my father,

distance my mother.

I will weave my own fate,

resist the crushing depths,

ascend at my own pace,

and avoid the crippling bends

my family has brought upon me.

They say I’m too emotional,

in need of a clear head to think.

I can think and feel at the same time.

My diving will show them I’m smart–

To Bodrum, I’ll follow my heart.”

 

“Meltem, you are looking afar

resting on a shifting sandbar.

It seems you have left a door ajar

through which you can see your polestar:

Me, your friend. Is that so bizarre?”

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