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Annie


The poem included in this post was first published by Silk + Smoke Magazine in July 2020. You can read more fascinating writing from this publication here.


Writer's Note: When I was twelve, and living with my family in a small Black Sea village in Northern Turkey, a seventeen-year-old American girl named Annie came to stay with us for a few weeks. I was the oldest of four kids and felt extremely threatened by the seniority of the intruder. I’m afraid I was a bit of a snob towards her, although for all I know, she was probably a delightful person. Not too long ago, I was flipping through the journal I kept in those days and I found an outraged entry about Annie, penned by my jealous twelve-year-old self. I began to laugh at little me, and I laughed and laughed. Then I wrote this poem. I wanted the poem to convey the complex and painful tensions between Annie and I, and the aggrieved, hilarious pettiness of childhood. As I wrote it, I found that I also had a lot to say about being a third-culture kid in the Middle East, and about the lingering sense of beauty and loss that accompanies us everywhere we go.

ANNIE

They brought her home in hazelnut season,
the sweet sad end of summer, and I knew
we weren’t going to be friends.

In the orchards the raspy branches
were browning with clustered nuts. Annie
couldn’t make pancakes,

her pancakes were fat and stuck
to the skillet and grew black spots. Mom
spoke to her warmly and laughed

like it didn’t matter. Between the bookshelves
they drank coffee and talked about things
I wasn’t old enough to hear.

September came on like a scent on the air,
the sky growing heavy, a promise of rain.
On the hillsides, hazelnuts

in their pale green husks. The sun. Annie
wanted to come too even though
she didn’t know how to do anything,

didn’t know how to fill a feed sack with
spiny leaf casings or bear sunburn or sit
in a shaded circle of heat and hijabs

eating salty goat cheese and tahini helva in
tiny slivers, cherishing the sugar on her
tongue. When she asked if we could

leave soon, I smiled on her benevolently
like an indulgent parent. All night the neighbors
husked hazelnuts on the concrete

outside their house, downing red tea
from fluted glasses. When the clouds broke,
bringing the cold, blue tarps came out

like umbrellas. My dreams were full
of their laughter. Of rain. Annie
took a plane out of Istanbul

back to where she belonged. When I think
of her now, I remember how she wrote
letters to her boyfriend every night

in big loopy print with hearts. The next year,
a great orange husking machine
with a hose like an elephant’s trunk

rolled through the village and spit out
smooth nuts, a fountain of marbles,
a job one woman can now do in an hour.

2 comments

  • What a beautifully crafted poem! It captures an adolescent experience so familiar to me. Thank you for sharing it.

    Katherine Gardella
  • This is delightful. Memories of early years in the Middle East stirred. Thank you!

    David

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