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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 1, March 2016

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Chris Bays
Beavercreek, Ohio, USA


Yilankale

Snake castle, as the locals call it, is in the distance, its towers looming against a Mediterranean sky, a horizon unlike any other, azure mixed with subtle pink.

I have skipped school, once more hitched a ride down D-400, the Silk Road traveled by Alexander the Great. The guarded confines of Incirlik Airbase lie behind me. The lure of an ancient castle by the Ceyan River is greater than the rumor of boys sold into slavery—a rumor spread by those too fearful to cross the borders of the base.

I climb between rocks, some as tall as trees. Legend has it that a kind snake once ruled this hill until it was betrayed and killed. Ever since, snakes around the world have hated humans. I pause. Adjust my rucksack.

As I lean forward, two boys step from behind the rock next to me, blocking my path. The taller one is lanky, muscular. He wears a T-shirt inscribed with Coca Cola. His black pants—several sizes too big. Next to him, his squat compatriot, hair standing up like a comb, swirls a silver blade—its sharp edges glinting in the afternoon sun.

Without delay I take off my rucksack, spill Oreos, cigarettes, and T-shirts on the ground. The tall one pulls a Meerschaum pipe out of his deep pockets. The shorter boy lowers his knife, reaches behind a rock, and brings out—one at a time—ekmek, cups, and a jug of water.

chai-stained hands
i thrust the blade
into harvest bread

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