THE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS
The construction workers
in Ümit’s little shop
have come for cigarettes and beer.
They put their ten-lira notes
on the counter and giggle like girls
whose dates have come early
in unfamiliar cars. One—just a boy
whose beard is thin—whistles
a song he heard on the radio
Something about his mother,
something about the joy
of birds. All are happy, it being
Saturday evening and they’ve built
something, even in the rain. Walls
to be the walls of a bathroom
soon, or one of many doorways
children are going to walk through. I
listen—I don’t understand
their Kurdish phrases, their faces
that at once are young and old.
I’d have disappeared already, washed
the paint flecks from my neck,
the dust from my wrists. But it being
Saturday evening they must
celebrate, they must pretend
their work is done, the great work
their fathers failed to do.
They called them theaters then,
and there had to be a velvet rope,
a big bronze ash tray pierced with four cigars,
and a man who tore our yellow tickets—
a man whose beard was yellow
and suspicious. There had to be
a boy who brought us to our seats,
a high school boy in a bow tie
who expected a nickel and loved
the occasional dime and a girl called June
whose father disapproved of everything.
We learned about Germany in newsreels
and loved when Errol Flynn danced,
knocking about in boots
we had to have. I was kissed
in the Palace on Main Street
by a girl who smelled like spearmint
and Ivory soap, and so I discovered
what it meant to be a man. For days
my mouth tingled and almost hurt.
Some days we skipped geometry to go,
calling ourselves wild adventurers,
forcing scandals that never came to be.
When we had to leave, the air outside
was always too bright, too natural,
unskimmed with the silver and black
that framed our heroes.
Carl Boon lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at 9 Eylül University. A Pushcart Prize nominee, Boon recently edited a volume on the sublime in American cultural studies.