The Crows of Istanbul

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By Nico Arcilla

Recorded by author


It was your fate to find the truth
as the crows of Istanbul found you
on a balcony overlooking the Bosphorus,
coming to drink water you placed there for them,
carefully dipping their dagger-like bills in the cup
on the railing, looking you in the eye, giving thanks
to this stranger who understands
the common language of kindness.

Here you marveled at the peace of the dogs in the street,
petted and fed, at home in the world, sleeping
in cobblestone passages under your window.
Here you ate roasted corn with salt in the square
by Yeni mosque, and watched a man feeding the gulls
with the leavings of fish, dressed in a shirt that said, “Impossible.”
Here you walked past the Roman aqueduct to Saraçhane park
and a crow came to meet you in the afternoon sunlight.

Here you watched the evening sky turn pink and amber
as gulls gathered on rooftops, their bodies bright as comets.
In the morning, you drank coffee in the park as parrots flew overhead,
green and outrageous, free as the songbirds stopping on their way
to Africa, anything but impossible. All the while the crows were close
at hand, meeting your eyes, as if to say: we can show you a place
you have lived all your life but never seen,
where there is space for all of us.

Where there is kindness, we share a language, as when your brother
Francis spoke with us, not far away, as we crows fly, and long ago,
but we remember. If you think you’re forgotten, we don’t forget.
Let us show you what you, without knowing, always knew:
that the God of all of us makes the impossible into the possible,
and makes the possible into the truth, so that what you thought
was the end of the world
is the beginning.

Nico Arcilla, PhD, is a conservation biologist based in Sweden and director of the International Bird Conservation Partnership, whose mission is to foster and support research, outreach, and partnerships to advance the conservation of birds worldwide (


Biography recorded by Rebecca Selove

3 thoughts on “The Crows of Istanbul

  1. I can read this poem countless times and feel that I am reading for the first time; language and imagery make me feel that I have just arrived (“as the crow flies”) at a place of greater understanding, and/or increased empathy!

  2. “Where there is kindness, we share a language.”
    Was that the language Nico Arcilla (then Nico Dauphine) was speaking when she was lacing bowls of catfood with rat poison? Nico was convicted in DC.

  3. The poem is beautiful………..of course, like all your poems, so very present.
    Your picture here reminds me that you’re more beautiful than I remember……perhaps it’s you new situation.
    You stay well my dear.

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