Not Talking in Turkish – by Gabriella Brand

When Ayse’s mother comes from Turkey,
we speak to each other with our eyes,
iris to iris, lens to lens.
Sometimes Ayse translates, but mostly she’s busy
with other guests, passing out baklava, pouring tea.

The Pearl and I sit side by side, no language between us.
Mostly we grin. Or we link arms, or hug, or pat each other on the shoulder.
Her cheeks smell of rose-water, minarets, the sea.
She wears long skirts and a silky hijab that ripples when she prays.
I wonder what she thinks of my tight black leggings, my skeptical faith.

We’re both former teachers, confident in our voices,
older matriarchs who can’t help seeing the big picture
yet each hides worries from her grown children,
each mutters hopes that they may be safe from harm.
How do I know this? Because I know.

We often spend the evening without a word,
just breathing in each other’s presence.

Once we tried using one of those apps that
translate from one tongue to another,
each of us pecking away on Ayse’s Ipad, spelling out our points of view,
tidbits of opinion, but after the novelty wore off, we went back to
our beloved silence, the squeeze of the palm, and the quiet veil of friendship.

Gabriella Brand’s short stories, poems and essays have appeared in over fifty literary journals, including Room Magazine, The First Line, StepAway, The Citron Review, and several anthologies. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Gabriella divides her time between Connecticut, where she teaches foreign languages, and Quebec, where she volunteers with refugees and paddles her red canoe. She travels whenever she can, mostly on foot. Her website is:

Painting: “Portal to You”
Artist: Henry L. Jones
2019 – 16×20 inches – mixed media on canvas