Pictures gleaned from a garbage bin by Mustafa Ziyalan


Imagine a yellow that first turns red then white. Imagine a woman immersed in it, dressed in white, holding a glittering purse. Her hair, recently done, covers her face; her hand dissolves, engulfed in burning colors.

A man, whose face is gone far into reds, whites and yellow is nearby. He wears a white shirt.

The woman in white, who for a moment looks like a trail left by whiteness, the man in the white shirt, another woman whose black dress is covered with white spots reminiscent of seagulls, all hold pink plastic plates, some empty, some full of food. One of the women is smiling at the man in the white shirt.

There is a railing around the deck of the boat. The boat is decorated with flowers. At its stern stands a woman in a purple dress with a décolleté, the bride, the captain in a suit, the groom and his best man.

A waterfall of colors cuts, tears into everything and swallows the captain in one picture, the bride in another, the groom in another.

The woman in purple looks at me and giggles without holding back.


At first I think of a wire fence made up of hexagons; it reminds me of fishing nets. A racket and a ball hang above it.

Then I realize that the hexagons underneath are in fact tiles. Below the racket and the ball is the head of someone who is looking at them and who could be lying on the floor or on all fours. The person could be a child.

He has unruly hair.


In a picture I found in one of Calvino’s books, a man and woman sit on a couch, smiling, with their arms around each other’s shoulders. There is a poster on the wall behind them. On the poster is a form like the close-up of a pebble that has been around since the beginning of time. It reminds me of the work of a childhood friend who became a painter.


Here is a bookmark I found in a book by H. P. Lovecraft. It is cut from a black and white photograph.

In it is a beach, a seawall running parallel to the beach, and an old woman sitting in a folding chair on the sand. She is wearing a plaid bonnet.

There is a large towel hanging on the back of the chair. The woman is fussing about an umbrella attached to the side of the chair. Next to the umbrella hangs a large, white canvas bag that seems to move.


A man with lots of hair and a tired face who could be black or bearded becomes visible in a fleeting light, perhaps from a match that has been struck. There is light behind his face.

Is it his hand in the light? Is it another body? Is it the flame where the light originates?


Stadium. In the nearest lane runs someone in a white shirt and dark shorts. Behind him is a mesh fence, two poles and a concrete structure. The structure’s large windows are dark squares. A smaller window in the middle is divided into three panes. Somewhere in front of the man is a square of light that may be coming from that window. It is brighter than the window itself.


Street. Corner. Buildings across the street, parked cars on this side. A person who is a blur is dashing into a fast food joint called “Zum Zum” through revolving doors.

I see the naked knee, the light color below the knee-high socks and the boots of a woman leaving the restaurant. The person entering it is so fast that they may have left moments ago and changed direction on the sidewalk in their haste. One of their two arms appears to hug the body. The upper body, the lower body and the legs are three light-colored blotches.

It could be a woman whose right high heeled shoe I can barely make out. Her other leg is dissolved in the shadow of the revolving door.


Street. Poles in the foreground, two huge flowerpots behind it, trees in the background.

People on the sidewalk. One of them has a beard and wears a beret. Another person is hidden almost completely behind the pole. Another one is just a blurred movement.

The walls are blurry, too.

A bus is passing by on the far end of the street. There are signs of a gallery and a restaurant and the poster of the film “The Deer Hunter.”


I find a picture where I cannot tell what side is up, what side is down, whether or not it was taken in sunrise or sundown, when a storm was moving in or leaving.

If I could tell, it would be suddenly complete and cease to exist, I think.


I am looking among all possible stories, big and small, for the story that could embrace all the images I have collected from all corners of the city all these years.


And then, this one picture, perhaps wilted, perhaps burnt, and perhaps scorched together with the wall it is hanging on.

It is in the color of forgotten blood.



Mustafa Ziyalan’s poetry, short fiction, essays and poetry translations have appeared in many literary periodicals, anthologies (including New European Poets) and in book form. Istanbul Noir, an anthology of short fiction he co-edited, came out in 2008; his book of poetry Rüyacılar Kitabı (Book of Dreamers) and his book of prose Alengirli Filmler (Handsome Films) in 2012.