Two Handfuls of Lemon-Yellow Desires

Author: Zehra Çirak
Translator: Marilya Veteto Reese

Be a keeper and come to me but only if you can leave again. So come to me on the same slippery slope so that we can hold onto each other and carry each other along. Here’s to residing in To Have and To Hold and to being capable of nothing more than mutual astonishment. Or come via secret unspeakably quiet paths with your hands outstretched for thievery. Perhaps you can save yourself with an excuse of taking from the mouths of a babe, with the restless gaze of hunger. It moves away more quietly yet casts its eye toward an intersection where confrontations await someone quite different.
The man with his hands in his pockets, his head tilted back, looks at the sky where several swallows fly, requiring acrobatics of his eyes. The skin of his lovely slender neck, which rests as if captive in a white shirtcollar, is redolent with lemon. These he stole from a tree during the night, not a public tree-one with an owner and a house. The man pulls his hands from his pockets and runs them over his face. He wishes it were at least a year from now so he would have already forgotten. Lemon theft and consumption was not his plan. He bit into them with his shiny teeth. Fresh and sour, the juice ran down his chin, yet actually left nary a stain on his collar, only small burns in his heart.
A swallow-child practices flying home. Missed the nest again! The calls of those who’ve made it lend courage and perseverance. The swallow-child flies its rounds. A woman behind a window of a house watches the opposite balcony where the swallows’ nest is. She counts the swallow’s flights. Comes close to crashing into her window, just managed to miss it. Start afresh. The seventh time by now. Watching and counting and hoping, all the while the woman tries to imagine how many false starts she’s had in life. When the swallow finally disappears into the nest, the woman paces up and down in the room. She sits down on her own shadow which she’s forgotten on the armchair. There she cries just a little to herself. And these tears slowly reaching her lips taste of lemon even if they do somewhat burn with memory in the corners of her eyes.
She says, “Come to me, if you can leave again.” She tells him this written on a scrap of paper. She doesn’t give him the scrap until after the point in time when he could have come to her. She has a triumphant look, as if she’d gotten the best of him. She says, “I bet you dreamed of something that nice.” She yanks the scrap away, rips it in half and stuffs both halves into his pockets. There he stands straight as an arrow with his fists in his pockets and looks at the sky as if the swallows flying their zigzag paths were incredibly interesting. She goes over next to him and sniffs his impeccably white shirtcollar. Everything goes all yellow before her eyes.
Chicken with olives, garlic, white wine, capers and fresh rosemary, baked in the oven, cooked along with unpeeled lemon quarters. Meant for sharing. Not to everyone’s taste. By no means a new recipe. But upon enumerating the ingredients, the mouth waters anew for fingertips yearning to be licked. It was the meal of a man and a woman sitting in a nearly-empty outdoor café opposite one another who didn’t know each other. Many tables were still unoccupied. But only this one had exerted its magnetism on them. Had they enjoyed their meal?
It isn’t too late yet but twilight breaks over the sky and over the couple.
Knowest thou the land where lemons blossom? Just about everyone knows it, that song written by the master poet. The lesson for the apprentices is the empty grab bag that they fill up by poking their heads inside.
Do you know the ways of the human body which aren’t sure if they want to be known? Or if they want to hear if a voice says to them, “I want you like I want a country where luscious fruits grow?”
If gazes, captive behind sunglasses, are glad not to seem dishonest, rather simply blind to such things.
Two people walk side by side through streets that are loud and full of people. Both of them do not look at one another through their sunglasses. Each of them knows the words in the head of the other. But without touching they taste something on the lips of the other like the fear on their own.
Dread is colored yellow like the wings of a fine lemon-yellow brimstone butterfly perching on the shamelessly red blossom of a poppy. The bloom looks like silk panties. Shimmering and lascivious, the black center of it is like the depths of a dream.
What is the butterfly dreaming of while the poppy blossom sways back and forth in this wind? Soon it won’t be able to hold on any longer. But it can fly onward, preferably with the wind, accompanied by some pollen covering it like bodily fluids exchanged during loving. Some in its mouth, some on its sex and beneath the skin something else remains, too. But you can mutually rinse that off, suppress the thought, emote it away. That happens to people during the day and the night. But what do flowers do at night?
What do flowers do at night? The nighttime is ravenous, garrulous and moonstruck. The flowers lie ready like greens to be nibbled on a tray or were carried off by hands or lie forgotten in a corner that is glad to have them for a night. That’s what flowers do at night: they smell, and occasionally a poppy smells of lemons. But that’s not so bad, since it still looks like a poppy. That’s what it is to be a flower like that at night.
Flowers at night in a house, the house stands on a narrow and deep street with tall old houses and lovely streetlamps all in a row emerging from the facades of the houses like soldiers. The streetlamps are the guardians of the night in case the flowers should get lost, fall from the hands carrying them or fall gradually upon the street in the glow of the streetlamps. Then not only the flowers but also the streetwalkers standing and walking there are protected from being trampled. They do nothing other than keep blossoming and keep waiting at night. They await the glad cries of those who find them, “Look, I found a flower even though it’s nighttime!” Thus many a chosen streetwalker becomes a flower girl of the night.
What do flower girls do at night? Naked, they lean a little more out of their ‘vases’, those open windows, blooming after the act of love, with smiling faces outward and shining bottoms inward. And they listen to a group of passing street musicians. They are still playing “besame….besame mucho” at dawn.
The musicians collect the fallen petals along with the hoped-for tossed coins or the night’s smiling female mouths. The flowers of the night are addicted to pleasing. They wait in bloom or in wilt. They wait in color or black and white, they wait even without scent and never do they speak of the distant day to each night. Sad, the flowers and the mouths, but only if they are picked apart by greedy and oddly empty hands and kissing mouths that think of themselves as they seek. The kisses of the flowers, as those of the girls, are comforting and helpful. They assuage something, the flowers of the night.
A woman, a man, both are meant for one another in order to love each other and not in order to live with each other.
She says, “Come, if you can leave again.” After he was gone she felt hungry, and cut fruit into small chunks with a knife. The last ingredient in the fruit salad was lemon slices. Unpeeled sweet-sour refreshment. She didn’t want to eat the salad. She wanted to smooth it over her body. In dreaming of this idea she became careless and cut the tip of her little finger. The cut was deep. It bled heavily. She pressed the cut part down firmly and bandaged it despite the pain. Then she went ahead and simply ate the fruit salad after all. The wound gave her goosebumps for days afterward. At some point she healed, the spot around the wound still quite sensitive. A small scar remains to remind her. And whenever she rubs the damaged little finger against her thumb she feels her addiction to the memory of the short nighttime period in which she blossomed so happily like a bloom just released from its pleated bud, when her inner radiance was quite yellow with delight.


“Zwei Hände voll zitronengelber Wünsche”, by Zehra Çirak,
© Verlag Hans Schiler, Berlin
Translation © Marilya Veteto Reese