Şebnem Şenyener

Salute to a Snail in Jail; The Anatomy of Melancholy; Twenty Six Factorial; “Sulmo Mihi Patria Est”; M Theory; God Botherers: Şebnem Şenyener

Salute to a Snail in Jail

(For Osman Kavala, 931 days in solitary without trial)

Our poet had a canary in jail
You have a snail
in your sunless courtyard.
Hermit-like, this Spira Mirabilis
Navigating on a piece of leaf,
A spike of grass,
A perpendicular wall,
Too high in proportion,
without fear of fall.

Like you
Your snail sets the goal
With its perfect curve
Built by pearly chambers,
Its logarithmic spiral,
Thinking in polar coordinates
It is unbeatably human,
Thinking love,
Forever just, precise and right
Heartlike, throbbing in rhythmic waves,
All in one
With its own equiangular home
Small it may seem
Yet its turnings increasing in the same geometric progression
Can create pure misty bays, here and there,
Can make the arms of spiral galaxies
Like our own Milky way,
and billions of light years ahead of us
in every other corner of universe,
Can cause those bands of cyclones,
Like the hawk in pursuit,
Or an insect’s flight to the sun.
Yet humble and slow
As it may appear,
Glazed and graced with
silver dew drops in its trace
That glow in the dark,
Sparkling without a single moment of giving up
for your locks and bars.

Like you
Your snail attaches to the whole universe
you dreamt, loved, desired, worried, read and thought
In the dark
With your sky-sharp glowing eyes.

The snail observed you,
Your dreams, your worrying, your living,
Your singing,
Liking your curls,
Sunny and lively
Your naked feet
Your bony body
Your melancholy

All the while I missed you
Wondering about your dreams
Your worries, your thoughts and your readings
Wondering about your singing,
Your lovely curls, naked feet, bony body
And your melancholy

The Anatomy of Melancholy

(In Memoriam Robert Burton)

Separate if you can
Weight from lead
Heat from fire
Moisture from water
Brightness from the sun
Misery, Discontent
Care, Calamity and Danger
From a man

Separate if you can

Twenty Six Factorial


The alphabet is every poem.

“Sulmo Mihi Patria Est”

(To Ovid)

I have been dream-walking
Through a valley of the Apennine,
No idea how and when.
There is snow on the fields
The moss crisped and iced and slipping underneath.
Here and there,
Only antlers appear
The cumulus clouds lay near ground
blanketing the deer.
This giddy hide-and-seek is closely watched by the sun,
and the morning is giving the birds an extra breath to sing.
Each is a groom, with black tail and whitest shirt,
Readying in line, in joy,
Soon to conquer the Amaro peak
But then, as if their cue
I hear a sweet bouzouki from the other side of the sea:
You in your white shirt half-tucked-in,
Your pants so loose now,
Hardly kept on your hips,
Their hems piling up on your shoes,
Shoe-backs folded down, stepped down,
Holding your hands up to your Sirtaki step
Slowly bending, slowly rising

Curving rocks carry me to your arms, to your hug
Ending our longing in this land

The Maiella , the oldest virgin,
is getting married today
Already crowned with the most beautiful tulle
The longest bridal veil

I must have come here to her wedding
And I ask why
Why is your veil white?
And not red, red like the Anatolian brides,
When brides wore it in the Levant
Like a shining flame from head to toe.
Flammeum it was,
Which gave its name to the Anatolian poppies,

They say, we know you already,
Don’t worry about the answers of such questions
You too are a prisoner of heart

Come, join, have some wedding soup
With it we provide
that bitter bread of exile

You and your like-kind
Have been ascending and descending
its stairs

Sometimes even in endless skyscrapers
In that far, too far west
They say its arrow is blind now, and the bow in waiting

I ask: What happened to the solitude?

This, they say, releasing a long breath,
is celebrating its two thousand years of birth

The old strife between Ovidius and Augustus
The Poet and the Emperor
The Poem and the Crime

Those damned six letters he wrote, and his scribe scribed

And the order of “Carmen,” a song,
Became “Crimen,” a crime.

Is Carmen the song that has become a crime ever since
Two thousand years on,
Its poets sentenced forever to exile.
The song of Nightingale in seven heavens
Was written by “mistake,” in a mix-up,
A voice that misread the emphasis in the wrong place
To condemn the heart to eternal prison bars of love.

I opened my arms to give you a hug
A hug for a long, much-too-long, goodbye
To say it is home,
It is home that has arrived

Here in piazza XX settembre
In front of Ovidius
Enveloped in his own thoughts
Unaware of my visit

In his mind he is in his exile,
There in Ovidiu Square in Constanza
Standing tall, holding his chin in bronze
And still whispering of his homecoming

Sulmo mihi patria est

Sulmona is homeland to me

M Theory


Eleven dimensions
Ten of space
One of time
Rolls on a string
And the pinball game of chance

Things imbibed
With mother’s milk
Stay in the heart

God Botherers

Ladies and Gentelmen
Since you
Created God
You are responsible
So you
Better get hold of Him
Before He
Destroys us all!

Şebnem Şenyener, a world-travelling native of the Aegean, born in Homer’s hometown of Symrna/İzmir, has published six novels; Letters Writ By A Turkish Spy, February 30th, The Murder of The Belly Dancer, The Merchant of Character, The Song of Death is Free, We Loved Each Other With A Thousand Eyes. She presently lives in Shelter İsland, NY; London; and Carloforte, İtaly. www.sebnemsenyener.com