Standing all day, every day, near
the entrance door of a chain bookstore,
he offers to passersby his poetry book, tucked
under one arm, a stack of twenty, maybe more.
His long, greasy hair clumsily pulled into
a ponytail where white strands dominate
the black. Failures of the past are the dwellers
of the shadows under his eyes, bringing out
the color of urgency burning in them.
The way he looks at you is different from
the indifferent glance of people who pass you by
or the gaze of a homeless man in his shabby coat
fixed on you, without seeing. No, when he looks at
you, his eyes rake your skin: makes you wonder,
what he searches in a million faces a day.
Clutching the rest, like a life raft, he holds out a copy
of a thin, white book as you sidestep so as not to bump
into it, nose-first. Over the confusion, a voice, desperate
and a little too high, asks, “Would you buy my
poetry book? I wrote it, please, it’s only three liras.”
People avoid him, some snicker, most pretend he’s
invisible and they are deaf, and as you walk on the
other side of the street, giving him a side glance, you
think, no one would ever buy his book when right there
is a proper bookstore with books belong to big names.
In your steps, the unbearable lightness of being the age
twenty, your gullible head, in the clouds, has no idea how
life can unfold, until it puts you in a street in another country
maybe ten years later, this time a stack of thin, black books
tucked under your own arm -your personal life raft:
“Would you buy my book of poems? I wrote it, please,
it’s only three dollars and fifty cents.” Nobody cares or
glances at you, as you seek a tiny flicker of hope in their
faces. Only after hours, days of effort it dawns on you how,
back in the day, that person was really broken into pieces.
Ecem Yucel is an Ottawa-based Turkish writer, poet, and translator. She holds an MA in World Literatures and Cultures and is a Ph.D. candidate in Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa. Her writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Alien Buddha Press, Cypress Poetry Journal, and her fiction and poetry newsletter Nocturnal Journal on Substack. Her debut poetry book The Anguish of an Oyster is available on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. You can find her at www.ecemyucel.com or on Twitter @TheEcemYucel.