They brought her home in hazelnut season,
the sweet sad end of summer, and I knew
we weren’t going to be friends.
In the orchards the raspy branches
were browning with clustered nuts. Annie
couldn’t make pancakes,
her pancakes were fat and stuck
to the skillet and grew black spots. Mom
spoke to her warmly and laughed
like it didn’t matter. Between the bookshelves
they drank coffee and talked about things
I wasn’t old enough to hear.
September came on like a scent on the air,
the sky growing heavy, a promise of rain.
On the hillsides, hazelnuts
in their pale green husks. The sun. Annie
wanted to come too even though
she didn’t know how to do anything,
didn’t know how to fill a feed sack with
spiny leaf casings or bear sunburn or sit
in a shaded circle of heat and hijabs
eating salty goat cheese and tahini helva in
tiny slivers, cherishing the sugar on her
tongue. When she asked if we could
leave soon, I smiled on her benevolently
like an indulgent parent. All night the neighbors
husked hazelnuts on the concrete
outside their house, downing red tea
from fluted glasses. When the clouds broke,
bringing the cold, blue tarps came out
like umbrellas. My dreams were full
of their laughter. Of rain. Annie
took a plane out of Istanbul
back to where she belonged. When I think
of her now, I remember how she wrote
letters to her boyfriend every night
in big loopy print with hearts. The next year,
a great orange husking machine
with a hose like an elephant’s trunk
rolled through the village and spit out
smooth nuts, a fountain of marbles,
a job one woman can now do in an hour.
Read this while listening to ‘Gece Kraliçesi’ (Queen of the Night) by Sertab Erener.
Bryana Joy is a writer, poet, and painter who works full-time sending illustrated snail mail letters all over the world. She spent her childhood in Turkey and is currently in the middle of a one-year sojourn in York, England with her husband. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in an assortment of literary magazines, including The Adroit Journal, Ruminate, and The Sunlight Press. She has a thing for thunderstorms, loose-leaf tea, green countrysides, and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
WORDS FROM THE AUTHOR
When I was twelve, and living with my family in a small Black Sea village in Northern Turkey, a seventeen-year-old American girl named Annie came to stay with us for a few weeks. I was the oldest of four kids and felt extremely threatened by the seniority of the intruder. I’m afraid I was a bit of a snob towards her, although for all I know, she was probably a delightful person. Not too long ago, I was flipping through the journal I kept in those days and I found an outraged entry about Annie, penned by my jealous twelve-year-old self. I began to laugh at little me, and I laughed and laughed. Then I wrote this poem. I wanted the poem to convey the complex and painful tensions between Annie and I, and the aggrieved, hilarious pettiness of childhood. As I wrote it, I found that I also had a lot to say about being a third-culture kid in the Middle East, and about the lingering sense of beauty and loss that accompanies us everywhere we go.