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Bodrum photo

As I wait for your return, I remember the tales you told the night before. You and your magical night weavings. You and your retinue. Everywhere we land, they gather -- rare, colorful birds who peck away at the seeds you throw: gold coins, silver words, warm inspiring winds.

Our first night in Bodrum, you told a tale of your youth, of a visit in the late sixties when you were a boy (and I twenty years unborn). You and your mother were staying in the most elegant hotel of the city, which overlooked the Castle and the Aegean Sea. A narrow alley ran beneath your window, and you were watching a train of camels moving up from the water where they had carried baskets of grain to anchored boats. Their baskets now empty, the camels -- front camel with rider and the rest linked by ropes, bridle to bridle -- had just turned back into the alley when you saw that from the other end the donkey-boys were bringing their charges to water. Neither party, camels or donkeys and boys, seemed the least bit concerned. It was clear that the camels and the donkeys could not pass one another and had by this time come too far into the alley to turn around. By what miracle, you asked, would chaos be averted?

Your friends and hangers-on murmured and awed.

"How indeed?" "What a calamity." "What could you do?"

"Ah, listen and learn," you offered knowingly, picking up the tale.

When the donkeys and their small riders were abreast of the camels, the donkeys dropped to their knees and each donkey-boy bowed and flattened his body against his donkey's back. The camels passed effortlessly overhead. A marvelous trick--contrary beings passing through one another and yet exiting whole. From your window, from both your youthful, charmed-boy life and your middle-aged suzerainty, the image was alchemy: transmuted, transposed.

I smiled as you told the tale in the candlelight with the moon sparkling on the Aegean and the warm, gentle winds flowing through the bougainvillea that tumble into the streets. There are no longer any camels but for show in Bodrum, yet you brought them back in your deep, whimsical tones.

I smile now, waiting, always waiting, for you to reappear and remember me, but I know, even in my insignificance, that alchemy is rarely as simple or safe as you offer. I know the compromise of alchemy, the same way each donkey-boy knows how to flattened self against the beast just enough to make the illusion work.

Great towering camel, you. Me, both boy and donkey. When your baskets are finally empty, will you feel knife or wind slipping beneath and through your great camel belly? Ah, alchemy indeed. Gold spun from baser metals, my love. An elixir of forever from the tears of now and then.