In Istanbul, the owner of the pashmina shop

said, “The body is like a gift

between husband and wife.”

He said the burqa, the hijab,

were like human wrapping paper.


I take scarves from the shelf,

unfold and refold some,

drape the red one

over my head, align the fabric

with my hairline. My blond

is gone: now I see the cashmere

is auburn like her hair.


It’s not about Istanbul

anymore. It’s about back home,

back then, her shoulders

sinking into the water

in the bathtub of that Motel 6.

I had stopped by to check

on her. She told me not to worry,

shedding the oversized


button-up of the man

who left her there.

He took off his wedding ring before

he touched her, put it back when he left.

Naked and alone, she drank

vodka with mango juice.


“These American girls, they don’t save

their beauty for the husband,” the shopkeeper

continued. Maybe it’s true, I think, because she loved


to be dangerous. She invited him

to touch her.

“What do I have to do

for class tomorrow?” she asked.

“Wear that skirt,”

his reply.


“A woman is to cherish, a woman is –

how do you say? – precious.”


I walked in,

herlips parted to kiss

the surface of the bathwater, her red hair

fanned out, a regal and waterlogged crown,

she began to swallow

and drown.


“In Turkey we think America is maybe

too free. What do you think?”


I reached under her

shoulders to pull her up. She sputtered,

she breathed again, we drained the tub



“Did you hear me?

Too free, too free?”


I still hear the crude

sound of the drain,

“I am emptying,

I am emptying.” I still see

the puckered skin on the soles

of her feet hanging

limply over the end of the bed,

the balloon-shaped bruise

on the back of her thigh, her wet hair

clumped in snake-shapes

down her back.


She breathed like raking gravel.

I stripped the bed

of its sheets. I remember now:

I wrapped her

in them, I found her clothes

for her. I braided her hair.