In nearly the first moment we arrived in the city called the Glorious, on the ancient lands of Mesopotamia that sit between the river Tigris and the river Euphrates, we were followed by a cracked man that carried us through a maze of houses built of desert-colored stones with desert streets and desert air. We climbed through the maze passing black-eyed children in the streets, further into a labyrinth and further from the cracked man. We lost track of our location but as the sun was sinking to setting we came to a clearing and found ourselves at the castle walls above the ancient city. We climbed down the steps from the castle as the light turned to golden toward the green oasis that cooperation and water built in the center of the desert city and we came to the pool of sacred fish belonging to the father of faiths.
The light had become the sort of light that makes everything visible, the moment when the imagination and the eye link in perfect harmony, when we came to the pool. The pool holds the sacred fish that lived suspended in time from when the flames meant to engulf Abraham were changed into those glistening bodies until the time when the shallow pool was carved to hold the water that was brought to the desert during the fourteenth century. The one who sees a white fish among the masses in the sacred pool is said to be a blessed one who will someday enter through the gates of Heaven.
I concentrated on the water, enchanted by the forms moving beneath water and light. A white ghost sliver from the depths appeared and disappeared before my eyes in the moment İ cracked my lips to speak of it. İ searched the spaces for the white fish, in a crowded and expansive pool of golden scales and iridescent shimmering bodies, from flame to fin, fire to fish forms. The place was crowded with the eyes of believers searching for the ancient truths, longing they not escape us. Another sliver of white appeared from the depths like the flicker at the center of the flame.
The unseen came with evening light. The pool became alive with ghosts emerging from unfathomable depths, white fish sparkling for an instant beneath the life we know, appearing to our eyes like the ancient apparitions. A fish colored like the watery home changed before unblinking eyes to the glowing white of morning light. The salvation pool. On the belly of every fish, salvation. At the depths, each fish turns back to flame. Search the depths. To the eyes of every seeker, the sought. Salvation.
We walked to the border of a war-torn land where the children turned to men after one night of sorrowful dreams. Where the sky was open like a tunnel of light toward the eternal. The earth was scattered with glistening scraps of ballgowns of the women who wander the fields, snagging the hem of their gowns gathering light, sequined scraps for grazing goats.
We journeyed deeper, to a land where some have warned not to go. Like into the forest at sunset in the beginning of a fable, we entered a walled city, perhaps the oldest city in the world. A complex history of combining and unwinding. Tongues taste memory but cannot speak. An unmarked grave between the jailhouse and the cathedral, a locked house, a small trail for the young brothers of the goatherd in the center of town. The air tasted of sorrowful memory and left us ill and without tongue for the place. Waiting for the light to change.
We feel nearly ghosts in these places, moving in and out. The children stand at their doorsteps and watch us pass. Slivers of fish turn to flickers of flame then disappear into the depths.