Bowing In Istanbul
Toward the end of a visit
to Istanbul, I roamed a neighborhood.
I found myself starting to bow
slightly to older men I met. Some
were sitting outside shops, weary.
Some were playing games of chance.
Others sat in the park or walked
thoughtfully. Several men
ignored me, as well they might: Think
of the legion of strangers who have
passed through Istanbul, thinking
they were somebody, practicing
gestures. Some men put a hand
over the heart in response.
Others simply nodded. One man
with a sun-browned, wrinkled, noble
face who walked slowly near the park
carrying prayer beads, interpreted
my gesture as genuine respect,
as it was intended. His old
eyes flashed. He said,
“Aleichem Salam,” though I’d said
nothing except to bow. It was
a crucial, transitory moment
in Istanbul, in Istanbul . . .
Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom