Stephen Cloud: "Dead End in Istanbul"



Wanderlust has brought you to the point

when delirium, no longer merely the means,
has become the end as well, sought

for its own sake. It happens when you strike a deal
in the bookseller’s tent outside

the Blue Mosque, Mirkelam guiding you back behind
the tent-shaded courtyard to read

your fortune in the curlicues inscribed on tile—
blue slashes and dots angrily

and artfully condemning the lust that led you
to wander this far in the dire hope

that here in the shadows and strictures of minarets
you might wake from the dead

and find yourself pursuing the enlightened path
at last. But Mirkelam’s sharp stick

points out the calligraphy that recalls Cain’s fate:
Fugitive, wanderer, seeker

in vain, you have no calling in this holy place.
The muezzin’s plaintive wail summons

thousands to prayer but banishes you to some dank
den where the pipe is blown alive,

fire from the lips of a hooded crone, conjurer,
stoker of the blessed end game.


Stephen Cloud has published a number of poems in journals such as TriQuarterly, Tar River Poetry, and Clackamas Literary Review. His chapbook, American Journey, won the 2006 poetry award from Longleaf Press.