Soldier of fortune
"The city is fallen but I yet live. Isn't there a Christian here to take my head?" Contantine, 30 May,1453
My thoughts are drifting, soporific.
I wander far from this meagre time and place
And I a soldier of the Sultan, a Janissary, what a terrible joke.
I drift in memory back to the ashes and the dust my boyhood knew
In Bosnia: my parents, my sisters, me the only boy
A besmirched, frightened Christian human face
When the Ottomans raided and the Turks took me,
Such intricate losses I can hardly speak of
Serve to mark my unaccompanied loss of people, place.
Grey thunder clouds mount the Bosphorus and all my
Comrades are afraid. Fearing the spirits of the earth.
Fearing death with so much Christian blood on their hands:
Some, like me, remember the road to Calvary.
The Ottomans use us against our own people. And still
They will not convert. My people. O! How I hate this pretence:
But power is power and I must bide my time. Wait in line.
Practise the breathing as the Hindus teach. And as I breathe I see
Their lined, sad faces, like the crumpled leaves of autumn,
In the wet, forests of the north. I see merchants from Arabia,
Dhows packed with black slaves to sell. This hellish trade
Makes me turn my face towards the mountains of purple Bougainvillea:
All beauty carries a crown of thorns.
Just as the wine from Al-Andalus lifts then dashes my broken heart.
The poetry of Rumi then the music of the harp then some hashish, then sleep.
These Ottomans tell us we will become loyal assassins of the Sultan
Makes my anger burn, my hatred sting fiercer, like a knife wound.
In the slave market on this clear-sunned March morning I see a young
Yezedi girl being prodded by her Arab owner. She has blue eyes like mine.
She will be sold for a heavy price in gold, to an old, rich man.
Our eyes meet. I tell her in the silence of the cool of the morning to be strong,
To wait for the right time
Then to take her revenge, strike without mercy.
It is our song. We are strangers in this strange land.
We both must wait for our chance to spill Ottoman blood.
The alchemist bled me today and prescribed a tincture of opium
These prescriptions do not ease the pain I feel. They are no
Solution to my deep heart’s ache, the ache that afflicts my soul.
Sometimes I sneak into St Sophia's, surrounded as it is, by minarets.
I long for rain and cold, instead the heat and dust of deepest Anatolia
Dries my mouth and throat. We are hunting Kurds and Yezedi.
Zoroastrians maybe. I do my best not to find them.
The Sultan wants more galley slaves, more dead infidel
More blue-eyed girls for his harem.
Their lust is never satiated. Never