Friday, February 10, 2017

Poetry Friday: Waiting

On Tuesday morning I was listening to the radio, and I heard a Syrian refugee talk about his journey to the US, interrupted by the travel ban but then completed when the ban was lifted.  It struck me that this is the story of humanity: ordinary people's lives getting altered by what people with power decide to do, and how those ordinary people make the best of it.  What I heard turned into this poem.

Waiting, February 2017

The voice on the radio, according to the interpreter, says:
“I waited very long in Istanbul.”

I wonder how many times in history
This exact phrase has been used:

“I waited very long in Istanbul.”

And before that:

“I waited very long in Constantinople.”

And before that:

“I waited very long in Byzantium.”

For three thousand years,
People have waited,
Observing the vagaries of empire, war, and power,
Without being able to do much about them.

There’s baklava,
Turkish tea and coffee,
A cruise down the Bosphorus,
A Turkish bath.

I wonder how many of these things
And the other delights of Turkey
Came into being
To entertain those who were waiting,
Waiting very long in Istanbul.

Ruth, from

When I shared this poem with my writing group, one of the members played this song:

I did some research on Istanbul for the poem, and now I really want to go.  Check out this link on fifty things to do there.

Here's today's roundup.


Irene Latham said...

Yes, Ruth, I think Istanbul would be such a rich, rich place to wait! But then, waiting is rarely pleasurable when one wants so desperately to be someplace else. It's a good reminder, though, isn't it, to enjoy where we are?! Thank you for writing and sharing your poem. Beautiful! xo

jama said...

Wonderful premise for a poem. It made me think of man's resilience and ability to make the best of things.

Kay said...

While Istanbul sounds like it has many attractions, I wonder how many of the pleasures can be enjoyed by someone stuck and waiting on the whims of others beyond his or her influence. Your poem speaks to the resilience of those who are forced to leave their lives behind and start over.

Jane @ Raincity Librarian said...

Waiting, waiting, waiting. The most agonizing aspect is the utter powerlessness you must feel in a situation like this, with your future, your fate, even your very life in the hands of others. A true testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Touching poem, Ruth, highlighting the beauty and tenacity of the human spirit. And I do have to admit, as soon as I saw "Istanbul," I immediately thought, "not Constantinople!"

Brenda Harsham said...

Istanbul would be a lovely place to wait. I love that your poem humanizes the refugees.

Tabatha said...

Enjoyed your poem, Ruth! What can we do about "the vagaries of empire, war, and power"? I'm encouraged by the level of civil engagement I see these days.
I didn't realize someone had done that song before They Might Be Giants. Thanks for sharing!

Tara Smith said... many people waiting, in cities ancient and new, for some new beginning.

Violet Nesdoly said...

Great poem, Ruth. Love how you spun your idea into a comment on history and people's resilience. (Instead of turning lemons into lemonade, you've shown how to turn a turkey of a circumstance into a banquet.)

Linda B said...

How wonderful that you heard that line and created a poem of sympathy and wondering about those waiting. I saw one story about men waiting to escape a refugee camp in Somalia, & now I cannot find what happened after the ban was lifted. It was heartbreaking. Thanks Ruth.

Anonymous said...

Your poem tantalised my tastebuds, Ruth. And brought to mind that limbo feeling of indefinite ... waiting.

Mitchell Linda said...

Such an interesting set of contrasts in your poem....the limbo of waiting... the sensory pleasures of being in a new place. It reminds me of the idea that we are all pilgrims making our way through this world. Some allow the fear and the anger to shape the journey and some the adventure of new things. Interesting poem. Interesting contrasts. Thank you.

Robyn Hood Black said...

I love that you responded to this individual story with such a timeless, universal poem, Ruth. Thank you for sharing, and for your open spirit.

Mary Lee said...

I like your take on the ways ordinary folks' lives are impacted by the vagaries of the powerful. I read an article about the ordinary people who were the ones who actually did the detaining, who put the 5 year-old in handcuffs. Way more sinister to think about the evils that a misguided power can cause ordinary people to commit...just in the name of following orders.

(PS -- Call me when you're ready to go to Istanbul -- it looks FASCINATING!!)