Forgotten Journeys to the past, selection | Field Trip

  • Zafer Şenocak
  • Veronica Cook Williamson

How to Cite:

Şenocak, Z. & Cook Williamson, V., (2021) “Forgotten Journeys to the past, selection | Field Trip”, Absinthe: World Literature in Translation 27. doi: https://doi.org/10.3998/absinthe.1745



the first hour begins before the blank blackboard
an indefinite article settles on the hatstand by the door
which head flies towards us
you grow up, suddenly
is the cross on the wall empty the one on which Jesus hung for
he must have been removed overnight
or have taken an express train to Athens with a through coach to
  the Adriatic
just like the whole class did on a bitterly cold morning in early
in our pointless summer coats we stood on the hill of the Acropolis
  two nights later
and clawed Greek skills out of each other’s eyes
none of us made it to Peloponnes
but to Hades in two nights

the history teacher did not want to be called Orpheus
his recollection did not reach that far
yet neither his name nor his face could conceal
his kinship to an Anatolian slave
it could have been worse for him
we had a wide range of names we traded with great élan
they leapt into the air and snapped indiscriminately like caged wild
grade eleven A lined up amounts to a cage
nobody arrived at the idea of release
the black panther gets in Orpheus’ way
and rewrites history
you don’t need memory for that
the fragment of a dream and a life begun just yesterday are enough
to tell a story1
the history teacher points to the blackboard on which the future
changes into physics
the physicist turns around he barely wants to name his formula
the one that entitles him to displace the history teacher
verse appears on the board
a text to sing along to
we intone it and the teacher covers his ears
even though he is praised for his deafness
hysterically he shouts at us we remain lyrical
the day transforms into a life’s history
any life it is not yet a discipline we will never be old
to whom after all can you entrust your life at seventeen
I envy the half-orphans who grow up with the mother
the smell of feminine hands across the face at all times
then the flesh gets its money’s worth
I imagine that biology is always feminine
and geography mixed-gender hybrid
in competition with algebra a small crooked
weeping willow in the schoolyard unimaginable what went on here
  back then
thirty-one years subtracted from
nineteen hundred seventy-five
the penal colony was housed here and the discipline at the time
exhumations so no one can hide under his ancestors’ gravestone
a starry sky tipped into the open pit Peace Plaza
their tongues fall out of the stones when you tip them over
silence is cement
the history teacher practices forgetting with us
who would not call him Orpheus
we knit summer coats out of transparent yarn
what risk we take in geography
for one day for the fraction of one day
we want to dig dig dig a tunnel
heading home a night train full of eleventh grade in an expedition
we crossed under state borders fell overboard
were reborn through open windows
in the wind’s fluttering howl
then the train stopped
silence on command
bleary-eyed in lockstep
in the baggage fake marble souvenirs
splintered footprints from some coast
there we stood in rank and file
little green men wanted to see our passports
they were our own watching
over the country that was left for us


  1. Geschichte in German could be translated as story or history.