There Are No Small Things

Lucy Durneen


It’s 02 January 2016.
I’m writing this for future reference
   It is a small thing, but there will be a time when it
    seems impossible this date was once the


I thought it hardly worth remembering snow
on the roof of a Småland church
on the road to Stockholm   
        the quiet of it like a mute sea
but on the bus to the airport I was reading you Nazim,
so I noticed
and now I am afraid of forgetting it
       I am not a person who has much faith in anything
even memory


    I didn’t know poplars were Turkish
Poplars are the English Fens
where I was born
in a city whose cathedral they called a ship
       Beyond lines of poplar I sailed from one waterland into another
I wonder if this is why sometimes I taste salt for no reason.


     I am afraid of forgetting so many things
        for instance, leaning out of the window to hear La Cumparsita
from the café on the corner of
Rosenthaler and Weinmeißter Straße
     I want to call those Berlin nights voluptuous
but this was when I had stopped loving

       It was here I lost my wallet once
The man who found it told me to collect it from an apartment in Kreuzberg and I did and at the doorstep he

                                 asked me to
                                 come inside and I did that too and while I was waiting
                                 the front door closed and the thing that happened
                                 next is the
                                                   thing women are always afraid will happen

  There is nothing wrong with comparing nightfall to a bird, Nazim
             it is the exactly right way to describe
the slow, feathered sinking of darkness


Before the Nazis, before the Soviet patrol
    Brecht would walk along this street
to his house near the Spree
to one lover or another, whistling Tumbalalaika
with his
hand in his pocket and the world of the stage
in his head
                      “...War is like love,
                        it always finds a way...”


Two things we will never stop writing about: love and
At times like this you see it’s true
the one who loves less is always
loved most
         It is such a small thing, but I am always using words
whose meanings I have not lived
I have a problem with words that mix Greek and Latin roots, for example
but not everything has to be named
           By the way I want to ask
the precise word for the candlelight in the Katarina Kyrka
the way you would describe
the tiny lanterns of the dead in
its churchyard
the shudder of flames beside snow
I wonder how you would put it

Sometimes it takes the tail lights of a Volvo to understand
all the things you have lost
There was someone who could quote Selimović
There was someone who stole pens
Aziz survived genocide
I thought I loved tea, but I wasn’t drinking
it the Turkish way then
So many beautiful untold stories

                          and my heart a storm inside
                          them all.

       Sometimes we cannot write because we are too busy being alive
It’s good to remember this


              especially when you see yourself in a dark window
on a train, perhaps,
when you think this is who I am
and yet you cannot touch this glass‐person
or you will break the illusion
the charm.


There is a man I loved
in old Istanbul
full of stories that brew in him like tea
in a glass pot
I am thinking of him now on the bus to Arlanda
        I have never been to Kadıköy
I have never seen the Sea of Marmara, so I have no Idea how blue
he was talking
I have no idea how blue.
It was a small thing lost in translation
                  Okyanus gözlüm
                  My  ocean-­‐eyed


     “I was never so close to anyone in my life,” you
said, Nazim, and you were thinking of Vera on
the road to the Crimea 

   Like objects in a rear view mirror
I didn’t know how close
What I am saying is: when you go to these seas you
do not think about the dangers.

      I thought maybe I would forget the time Ida drove me through
Vienna in the dark
through the famous woods to
the Kahlenberg and the view that is
exactly as everyone imagines
Seven ascending miles in a small French car for
the view of the Blue Danube
Ida's Donav


Blue is the light of distance
The edge of the spectrum that longs for but doesn’t ever
quite reach earth
The world in
cyanotype, the stars
Nazim, you wondered about them


         Emerson said if we only saw the night sky once in our lives
we'd never stop talking about it
that we tire of the miraculous
        but I haven’t yet.


There were five of us in the car
in our dinner clothes, my tight red dress
          Aziz by the window
“I was never so close to anyone in my life”
         Ida would only take the skinny ones, she said
which meant the Australian writer didn't see
the plaster-­‐pale skin of the church and the broken moon
and that blue-­‐midnight stumbling river
telescoping to Sulina
more beauty than I could bear


              This was before I knew about Yakamoz, so who is to say I had ever
experienced beauty

         or if I did it was the way a bird would experience
it, yes like night falling
    when everything seems less than it really is
as if from a distance, or exile
           even love
can be this way sometimes
I remember now how the edges of the world
are no longer blue when you arrive there


   But the most beautiful word in
the world translates as: the reflection of the full moon
on the sea on a bright and
cold night without any waves


which proves the most beautiful things are not so far away


                             memory, for example
which is only ever the space between things
I was thinking of how even chicken bones and lentils
are things I could love
or certain arrangements of notes on a clarinet,
a particular shteygerim
It’s impossible to believe anyone could ever get tired of this, but
       Nazim, it is not enough
to know the things you love
       to name the stars


you want others to name them too.
I am worn out with desire
It is not a small thing, to give a person a book
                 Something large and expanding pushed
                 deep into the dark machinery of
                 the heart.

       There was a ballerina who danced for a dying man on New Year’s Eve
Each pirouette a sigh for the living world
             a waltz into the blue
            And when she was asked why
           Why would you do this?
           Such a small thing, on this night of all nights
           She said, because there are no small things


no thing means nothing
no word is too small
no space in the world too small


There are children spinning through the gyres
of the Aegean

 The measure of freedom is in what we can run away from

But the borders are closing soon

I arrived too late
and now the snow above Arlanda falls heavy and the planes,
         the soaring planes like tired birds
have suddenly nowhere to go.


Lucy Durneen is a writer and lecturer based in the South West of England. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Litro, Two Thirds North, The Manchester Review and Short Fiction amongst other places. Her fiction has been awarded honourable mentions in Glimmer Train magazine, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and Bath Flash Fiction Award, and Highly Commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize; her Creative Non-Fiction has been published in World Literature Today and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first collection, What It Isn't, is to be published with Midnight Sun in 2016.

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