Istanbul Expat Women
Hold a match up to a thread from your carpet, does it smell like burnt hair?
The days when I lived in Turkey seem tinged with sepia now
We remember the same stories with different friends in the leading roles.
Expats being bad in the heat of summer.
Daytime “ladies’ lunches” behind closed curtains
bottles of Georgian wine, hidden in cloth shopping bags
Neatly wrapped to hide the clinking
To protect us from the dedekodu
Inside the cement walls, behind closed curtains
We drank, laughed, cried, told the same stories
With our own voices
Our magic carpet rides didn’t always end well
But at our ladies’ lunches we gave each other tips
About how to fall off gracefully
And how to tell if your carpet was silk or synthetic
Windows closed, aircon on, we hid our voices from the neighbors
Until the stroke of five, when we had to start collecting empty plates,
Water glasses stained with burgundy,
Pack up our imported Tupperware and go back to our husbands,
Head to our shift at the language school,
Mask back in place, magic carpet fired up,
Always silk or wool, never polyester.
Have to keep up appearances.
Here, take a piece of gum before you go, you don’t want to stink
Of alcohol on the bus or in the taksi.
Now, years later, I can only look back at the photos
And wonder how you all are…
Stephanie Johnson’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Witty Partition, Sink Hollow, Forum Literary Magazine, and others. She is an Associate Editor at Novel Slices, a new literary magazine based solely on novel excerpts, and has spent most of her adult life overseas teaching English literature, ESL and Spanish. Her writing usually focuses on the slightly uncomfortable space of the expatriation/ repatriation experience. She is currently based in San Francisco. Find her on Instagram at @stephaniejohnsonpoetry and Twitter at @stephan64833622