Sébastien Bernard





They toppled bronze replicas of sultans in parks named after junta pilots. They felled trees into the parking lots of abusive banks, threw lampposts adorned for Ramadan onto tone-deaf social offices. They blew telephone lines through the European-style gardens of oligarchs. The houses of parliament and stock exchange were shattered through their specious spectacles. In the early hours of Monday, a middle-aged accountant flew into a tree, and complained that he was late for work. A handsome and pockmarked student—otherwise ruthless—helped him down, feeling almost deterred by the pettiness, sounds, and sweat. Thieves, brawlers, political criminals, and authors of government mysteries flew into unlikely nooks in the old city, their hunters' bullets swerved off-course. Flags of radical leftist groups, outlawed syndicates, and students' organizations—whose colors would incriminate their bearers—disappeared into thin air at rallies, leaving police and protestor looking into each other's anonymous eyes. Political banners hung between buildings downtown and uptown, in the poorer districts and among high-rises built for mortgage loans, twisted themselves into obscene shapes that betrayed to all passing their true bents. What did meteorologists know? If their instruments could not account for what was happening now, what use were they for the future? The future, as we all know, belongs to the torturous or limpid dreams of the masses.



On the first night, the tin roof off a Bomonti shanty detached itself from wide eyes and slammed, earthquake-like, into others. It landed on top of a dumpster that drove its captive rat to near-insanity: white and pink footed neurosis scratching at the wee wheel of grey matter, kept it then on from the company of the mischief. Selim, young garbage collector and poet, lifted it and saw fur moving across blue plastic, mindlessly and without hope from the giant to whom it gestured. His subconscious had squirmed similarly when a sky-blue tarpaulin covered the body of a boy he'd hit in an accident years ago, which he only now accepted was not his fault. Going over it in his head, he lifted the tarpaulin that covered the boy's body to discover nothing. He looked up at the minaret whose loudspeaker announced Morning Prayer. Its pointed roof tipped sideways, and its cassette was clearly damaged, as he stood listening to cackles over white noise for what felt like a tiny eternity. "Screwy, we don't have all day!" The rough-and-gruff will call us more sensitive types anything, when we appear to them completely lost; are in fact parsing the wiles of time.



Some lost the very means of their livelihood: The homeless recycler his pushcart, the itinerant vendor his trolley, the fishmonger his goods for the day. The latter were scattered in the air like an evil-smelling rain, through which the plumber Taner—on his way to an overflowing toilet—had to walk, uttering words that were untrammelled will. Others luckier cried only for their hats, men and women of a generation that wore them like totems of modernity. The republic they'd been born into was so enamored and imperiled for nearly a century by the west, that the fez and headscarf had been—for as long as they knew—quite legally banned. They clung to that history, which the gales had already wiped clean.



Three young women on a night out were forced to take shelter under the lights of a marquee. There, Zeynep (eldest) read each of their astrological transits—ancient wheels overlapping in great sigils on her iPhone 6. She expelled, through laughter's tutelage, all the sins—subtle as well as game-ending—of invisible spouses, work partners, and the wily djinns of childhood. It said in those stars that her Twelfth House—'death' and 'talent'—aspected theirs, blooming via the night's red gibbous Moon, and a Venus that brought pure joy to their professional and personal partnerships. When the winds stopped, and they stepped out, the air smelled of sex and grass. They were sure, for the first time in a while, of everything.



Ali made it to his tailor shop in Taksim with flying colors, having ripped up the pride flag of the café below. He'd never planned on coming out to his workshop, and didn't, despite blushing and being mocked for playing a superhero. Still a goddamn tailor, Ali boy! Don't get ahead of yourself now, however befitting that'd be of your line. Our clientele has certain expectations . . . Insults, whatever one's perspective. Ali was extremely scrawny and shy at eighteen, and wasn't yet blessed with the freedom of those colors, which every year were tear-gassed and water-cannoned. Up until college, he'd nurse a secret crush for the itinerant vendor who handed him savory pastry at 9 a.m. each morning: the same nod of earnest gratitude he mistook for affection, never mustering the courage to say anything but "thank you." And of course he'd never marry, despite his father's railing. According to him, Ali sucked at everything. A woman could clean, a woman could cook, tend to him if he suffered from a cold, from rheumatism (a personal form of arthritis), from the hollow feeling in his back, or God knows what illness they'll invent next—caused by that new strain of oversized Chinese chickens, or the strange bacteria in Dannon yogurts. What was wrong with all the yogurt he ate in his youth? Nothing. Dad, who drank heavily, lived with the boy. Looking and feeling much older than he ought to at the age of fifty, he died of a brain aneurysm one October night. A wind of thirty bricks slamming against his body yet failing to move him, Ali walked out the tenement building into the perfect unknown.



Eylem, whose self-given name means verb, action, demonstration, deed, was one of the trans sex workers who put her body before water cannons during that year's Pride, who lost her fellow sister just a few months after. The gales took her purse of sequins fat with the day's clients. Just a few moments later, she found an embezzler's briefcase filled with three hundred thousand liras. Butter sole and a glass of Italian white with hints of apricot and lilac, at the bistro where eyes glared, skidded, ogled, winked, and lit, as Eylem hummed to herself a classic tune for her Mert. She would break him the important news in a few hours, when he returned home from his job as a night-watchman, that they were no longer in society's claws. She tapped her fingernails on her profusely underlined copy of The Book of Monelle: And you shall recognize me, she said, fixing her Medusa's smile on an entire country.




for a young Kurd

He told me this is a kind of a slum
and where was I from.
It looks like old mountains
in bad condition, I said.
They're in no condition, he said.
He wants my balls, I thought.
Watch your back while we cross.
My back?
Your mother (applause).
I crush a snail.
(More applause.) (Laugher.)
No blood, strange.
When a bat comes swooping
across both eyes, that 'mountain'
on its wings . . .







"The Gales" was written in response to Orhan Pamuk's The Black Book and Latife Tekin's Berji Kristin: Tales from the Garbage Hills. The latter is the author's second book that applies magical realism to Istanbul's most precarious cityscapes. The serial structure is an attempt to give order to the meandering and fractured nature of the 'narrative,' which has continued to expand. "Play" is a poem written for a friend, and expressing hidden love for Bolaño's poetry.