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Wednesday, March 15, 2023


by Annie Cowell

Songul Yucesoy's home in Samandag, southern Turkey was destroyed when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck a month ago. —BBC, March 6, 2023

She raises soap sudded hands
from the washing bowl,
places them on her hips
and stretches out her aching back.
Behind her the house tilts,
crippled, less solid than its shadow, 
window frames sagging 
between cracks like craters.
On the table, rescued, somehow
unscathed, is a picture.
It is a shell-framed souvenir of life before,
when the table wasn’t orphaned
to the street. 
Now, the fruit bowl she hates
for its dull colours and chipped rim
sits beside the picture, uncomfortable,
with its solitary orange.
A white mould is beginning to blossom
on its skin.
She lifts the dying orange, 
cups it in her hands like a stunned bird
and walks the short distance 
to where her neighbours’ family inhabit
two makeshift tents, cobbled together
near the rubble of their home.
Her daughter’s friend, he of the wild eyes
and cheeky tongue, lowers his head
as she approaches, tamed and silenced
by the shame of survival.
The lump in her throat prevents speech,
so she dusts the orange 
with her finger, takes the young boy’s hand
places the orange there. 
It’s the least, and the most, she can do.

Author’s note: Some of the events in this poem are imagined, but they were suggested by the facts in the BBC’s March 6 article “Turkey Earthquake: Survivors living in fear on the streets.” The suffering continues, even as the earthquake’s aftermath slips from the headlines.

Annie Cowell lives by the sea in Cyprus with her husband and rescue dogs. She has been published by Popshot Quarterly, Gastropoda Lit, The Milk House, and many others. She is a BOTN nominee. Her debut pamphlet Birth Mote(s) was published by Alien Buddha Press in 2022. Splashing Pink from Hedgehog Press is forthcoming later this year. @AnnieCowell3