The flag, a white crescent and single star
on a field of crimson — kırmızı, not just 'red' —
tells of Islam. The men drinking beer and rakı
at pavement tables, even in Ramadan,
and the short-skirted, bare-armed girls,
parading with bare-faced confidence,
tell of other influences;
but at the appointed hour we hear the call to prayer
from the marble minaret, a slim finger
pointing to the sky beside shining domes
reflecting the vault of heaven.
At five a.m. we hear it faintly through hotel double-glazing,
or at sunset, as a peaceful accompaniment to the spectacle,
and we remember where we are.
But especially at the midday hour,
when the voice of the muezzin echoes
over noisy street or market,
and from another minaret and another
the duet becomes a trio, a quartet
of different melodies, out of tune
with each other but never discordant
(in these tones the word has no meaning),
the faithful are reminded, however busy they may be,
that their God requires something of them.
Then, entering the cool calm of the mosque,
entering the quiet forest of pillars,
feeling through the soles of our bare feet
marble polished by the tread
of generations of worshippers,
the rich softness of crimson carpet,
we luxuriate in the textures as they combine
with the formal floral patterns of the tiles,
the ornate calligraphy of the inscriptions,
the rich colours of the glass,
and we realise that the builders of these mosques
knew what they were doing, so many years ago,
how peace can enter the soul
through the senses.
The letter that looks like a lower-case "i" without the dot and appears here in "kırmızı" and "rakı" is pronounced, in the delightfully phonetic Turkish language, as a kind of "uh", as in "I am writing A [uh] poem" or "I have read THE [thuh] book".