Phil Cousineau


Hurrying down the gas lamp lit back streets of Istanbul,
Past a kebab and taxi stand in the squalid tourist district,
Down along the river where the sweltering night is startled
With the unmistakable sounds of a wedding celebration.

Outside the hall a boy of sweet resignation leans on
A heavily taped crutch, his rags flapping like prayer flags,
An otherworldly smile widening on his shadow-fretted face,
Radiant as the joyous ritual unfolds behind fogged windows.

During a lull in the wedding music, he pivots with a twitch of pain,
Flicks the crutch in the air with a flip of his foot, snatches it
With one hand as it falls through the balmy air, and as I reach into
My pocket for a baksheesh, he dances past me, shaking his head,

Singing something I imagine sounds like kismet, fate,
Surrender, as if understanding what I need to give is more
Than a fistful of Turkish lira, what I need is to pay attention to
What's on the other side of that window, the gentler gifts of the night.

I turn back to the old brick hall, kneel to the ground,
Gaze inside at the married couple whirling in bliss.
Suddenly I see in my mind's eye, Howard Carter, the moment
He opened the famous tomb in the Valley of the Kings,

Eyes blazing, heart swelling with happiness when asked
What he was looking at: "Wonderful, wonderful things."

First published in Night Train.