Ivan Bunin


Istanbul


Starved, mangy dogs with mournful, pleading eyes,
Descendants of the ones that in a bygone
Age from the steppeland came, and, stung by flies,
Dragged in the wake of dusty, creaking wagons.

The conqueror was rich and powerful,
And with his hordes, proud city, he invaded
Your palaces, and named you Istanbul,
And then sought rest, a lion gorged and sated.

But faster move the days than birds in flight!
Black loom the trees in Scutari; unnumbered
The tombs they shade, their marble shapes as white
As bones bleached by the rays of many summers.

Upon the dust of shrines and temples falls
The dust of ages, and the plaintive howling
Of dogs the gloom of desert sands recalls
Beneath Byzantium's walls and arches crumbling.

Bare the Serail, its glory spent and past,
Its trees, now dry, bent low in desolation…
O Istanbul! Dead nomad camp, the last
Great relic of a last and great migration!

Submitted: Monday, November 18, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

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