Poetry Parnassus: The Slipper (Turkey)

Poetry Parnassus is a project of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, hosted at the Southbank Centre in London. It ran from June 26 to July 1, and featured 145 poets from around the world. Here is the Guardian’s interactive map, where you can click on a country and read its poem. I will be posting them on a semi-regular basis until they’re done.

The Slipper, by Roni Margulies (Turkey)

One day a few months ago
an old woman appeared
at the entrance of the underground station.
She was begging.

Her clothes were torn but white as white.
She reminded me of my grandmother:
her eyes full of fear,
her last days.

Each time I passed by her
I made a habit of saying ‘Good morning,’
and giving her some bread or money.
She never said a word.

The other day I tried to say more,
she looked, but obviously didn’t understand.
She took what I gave her,
turned her head the other way.

When I passed by yesterday,
she wasn’t at her usual place,
on the ground I saw a single slipper
in faded pink, sequined, on its left side

a blood-red plastic heart.
Tiny and glittering.
As if it would, at any moment
start beating.

• Translated from the Turkish by Saliha Paker & Mel Kenne.

• ‘The Slipper’ from Poetry International Web, first published in Adam Sanat, 223 (2004), by permission of the author.

This poem is an urban fairy tale with a bad ending. Instead of Cinderella showing up at the ball, we have her mortal grandmother. No gown, but clean white rags in which to beg outside the underground station. She cannot or will not understand what Murgulies says to her, perhaps because poverty has no subjective explanation, however many political theories exist. One day she’s gone, leaving behind a cheap slipper with a “blood-red plastic heart” that almost beats. The poem asks us to respond to that heart, while acknowledging that no prince will ever track her down.

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