ESSAY Karen Phillips

NWR Issue 114

My Artemis, My Ephesus


In our Turkish years, when the sun shone on history changing before our eyes, we used to scuba dive at Pamucak Bay, seaward of the ruins of Ephesus. I knelt on the silt sands at the bottom, thirty metres down, when I took my deep diving exams. The sediment was cold under my knees: it puffed like the last breath of civilisations, and drifted into the dark. That mud, washed down by the rivers, the building blocks of the wetlands, the slow accumulation, it cut Ephesus off from the sea and sent it to sleep in history. The mud stretched out before me, in the dim dark of depth, cloaked the many sins of these troubled seas.
Look at Turkey as I remember it, before now. I used to shop in Selçuk market on a Saturday morning and the man would greet me with a wide smile and flash-fry thin succulent strips of tender liver for a late breakfast. We were happy then, I think, most of us. I don’t remember people being unhappy. My Turkish neighbours, they just got on with things and they felt outside of the tide, if anything, but then the tides turned and the attention of the world swung like a boat at anchor and everyone started looking at Turkey.
Only gradually did I come to realise how full of ghosts were the seas that lapped those shores. How they were full of stories whispered on the weak tides, so quietly spoken that the tourists couldn’t hear them above the relentless rap in the bars up and down the coast. But I came to hear them. I spent so long there in all seasons, swimming in the tearful waters.


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previous essay: The Ape on the Rock
next essay: One Foot in the Water



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