Idiot Parable 7

(Going through my papers from my recent trip to the Istanbul Poetry Festival, I found this among a set of scribbles done during those parts of readings where there’s no translation, and the rhythm and animated delivery of some reader is just enough to set your brain off after a possible line.)

The Parable of the Plastic Bag

Two shoes were placed in the clear plastic bag and carried into the mosque. They were blue shoes, and it happened to be the Blue Mosque. The plastic bag felt full and happy, as though pregnant with two energetic twins. It tried to concentrate on an explanation of the correct times to pray, but instead it could taste the dust of the streets on the soles of the shoes.

It thought it could tell everywhere the shoes had been; it thought their weight was connected intimately to how tired they were; it imagined the kicking of feet.

Then, instead of being thrown back with the other plastic bags, the bag was carried away, perhaps absent-mindedly, though it soon found itself bearing the different weight of six pomegranates. These it thought of as six daughters, each full of a different astringency of mood and character.

As the bag swayed downhill past the Bazaar, it thought of how the pomegranates were packed with the squashed orbs that held their seeds as though with grandchildren, as though with months and years, as though with the weathers that occupied the seasons of those months, those years, as though with every cut and bruise those grandchildren would receive as they grew through those seasons.

The bag felt clammy at the thought that the six pomegranates were full of a kind of fragrant blood, the spilling of which was inescapable.

Then, when all the fruit had been eaten, the plastic bag was let slip from still-sticky fingers into the wingbeat of a sea breeze, and then, almost immediately, it felt itself coat the tongue of the Bosphorus.

The churning of the ferries’ propellors soon caused it to fill with chilling water and sink, and so it began a new journey, swollen with the water rushing between the city’s never-closing fontanelles, rising and falling with the jellyfish which allowed themselves to travel without direction or desire or destination, like the ghosts of all those who had stared into these waters, filled with hope and ambition for themselves and for their children.

About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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