In Istanbul: Faith Has No Name
By Lenore Weiss
Old men talking on park benches
sound the same in every country,
a soft humming of the same tune,
witnesses to toppled governments,
news of sickness, grinding bad business
or help extended from a distant relative.
Some old men sit and read a book,
a single finger holds their place.
Today it’s about a cat that stalks a pigeon.
I sit in a cafe and drink Turkish coffee.
A woman balances breakfast on her knees.
I pass through three security gates,
climb two sets of stairs, enter the women’s section
of the Sephardic Temple.
The song of the cantor leaves a fragrance in the air,
an incense of belief travels on the sob of gulls.
I leave tomorrow.
I will not hear the call of the Imam on the last day of Ramadan.
The Internet will inform me of more bombings and killings.
I want to ask why faith must be named.
Why belief must be branded.
Why Arabic and Hebrew can’t walk down the same street together?
Faith is an arch protecting the weirs of our minds.
It’s my own voice talking to myself.
— For Vefa and the staff of the Kybele Hotel
A lovely poem with a simple question at the center — reminds me of a scene from Antonioni’s The Passenger, an old man on a park bench in Spain.