History of Venetian Leoni

City is your name, I didn’t give it. I didn’t call you, you were unaware. In your distance that cannot be measured with paces, I didn’t hear my name from you. Whether my foot stepped on your path or not, as if it didn’t come aboard, I didn’t anoint my hair by sinking my hand in the water. When did I come, who am I, what are those papers in my hands I brought in?

I called you during a time of stick puff. I gathered the branches of trees touching your sea, I hung it on your neck with me and I smelled, a wet wood was just fired; the ball splashed the obstinacy of mud.

My job was to write history, to draw the city and the living. At the harbors I arrived, at the castles I went, at the inns I took a breath, I couldn’t wrap my head around something other than writing and drawing. After evolving my lines on the same direction by sitting on the wet stones of St. Marco Cathedral of Santa Croce in Venice for years, I went on my first journey with the motivation of my master. “Leoni”, he said to me. “Spread your vagrancy to the world.” I taught what I could, go, grow up far away, grow your beard, whiten them, and do not spend your life in the moss smell of canals. You’re already rootless. Instead of rotting away in moisture here, let your eyes see the soil.

I drew the way reversely, the ocean seemed divine. When I couldn’t find what I wanted, I turned back and chased Adriatic. Those roads, those times changed nothing. I was happy on my way back, as if I was going on my first journey. They attacked shortly before arriving at Korfu. Red bearded pirates. Everyone gave everything and I had nothing except for my notebook, some gold from my master and my pens. Because I stitched the gold in my underwear with the advice of my master, I bravely raised my hands and turned, I didn’t have something to hide.

I took my clothes off I had a neck to lie down on marble

My wish went up to amulet nightlong prayers

Couldn’t grasp my head don’t touch me I’ll rot by myself

Words fail me it’s usual who pass the Gate of Felicity knows

The mottled one of blushed ones at farthest garden

The opening of my hands, ahead of Allah

I lamented I have a life to be lived in Byzantine-old city,

Out of landlords, in where my clothes are torn my stains fly off.

 I lied down I had a waist to lie down on marble, from the boat

I wasn’t thrown out I praise for parity, when I gave my master’s letter

To landlords, I heaved a sigh of relief.

“This is Leoni, sent by Sandrollini, bring him to our Derya”

Chief Admiral came near me and looked as if he was stabbing my chin; he put his hand on my shoulder by bursting into laughs. My tongue continued laughing too and I became his privileged captive. I learnt his name at night, when a leather bottle was blown up. He had two collars, they didn’t meet, his life joined with headlands in and out from the waters he stop by, its flow torn by paddles. I trembled, and then I loved its foamy mouth. I slept with it until arriving at Istanbul.

Chief Admiral said; “Here you go, do whatever you do, draw or write, I offer you a storm in which you’ll get stuck.” I kissed his meaty lips, took the dagger and tightened on my belt; I realized how idle it is to go to the ocean when I turned in harbor. How I could savor the given and taken freedom. I explored its hills, coffeehouses and dancer boys; I drank from a distilled drink I was in trouble. Did my hand widen or do I look different I asked, whatever I recounted on streaked paper under a nice shadow, I found some madders. I pictured the landlords whose mustaches that ascend the sky, Levantines in yellow, and dervishes getting out from their convents at times. I passed without looking at women inside the collars reaching out as a strange bird’s mouth from their shoulders. I went near my red Derya when she called “Leoni”, but when under my arm, I saw her chin one day. Her lower lip. Harelip. The curve of her nose.

From the deaths punished with silence it finds a way in pieces, a heavy stone

It wasn’t there on my neck that giant stone changed shape

The flow is disparate here; fear and silence is much arbiter

I was mad and said, the rose garden I put between my legs, from poison

My stomach still overflows this affair aches from my nipple.

Say you have no land, no home, no mother, and no father at all

Being severed was taken for granted on frontier, on the line of Zara

Learn quickly to be someone else’s baby, to edge in

You’d win over by telling good words and appearing

Didn’t they pour atlas silk under your neck.

You may dream of coming home you’ll always remember, one moment

You may make your child bed you left all anyhow how nice.

The one who first shows its head, crest, sword

Its joy is to be freed without breathing standing erect

You suppose they liked me

There it is whose power you do not question, it is the gold thrown at you

It’s yours, I don’t have a forehead to smear, neither my lips

 I learnt running there, on the line of Zara.

History beats on the thin line the boat leaves behind.

The rusty voice of morning birds where my wrist is grasped.

When the forehead is touching a carpet, when it gets used to

The smell out of everywhere, from the fabric and jacket

My hands trying to catch the pitcher

Neither hot nor cold, let it not touch your fingers, its sermon

Be deep from the nose

I was given to it; I was brought to the bay window near the mosque

At the outgrowth I can perch myself

I waited.

How beautiful the stars of bath’s dome, my blood whiter than white.

Your horseshoe flied I couldn’t catch, the rest of a barefoot following.

Imam effendi, his voice lute-like, lectern from Persian

Its pearl was reproached to me

But all things that will blow from my yet headed body

Neither harsh nor soft, let it not touch me, its breath

Eshedu enla ilahe

A blood piece as huge as myself

I left.

I had a reason to wash up that day, my burn my life.

Ilahe illallah and eshedu while knowing the existence of Mohammed

The sac soap foams to my sin behind boys.

They turned down, snuffed the candles I was burnt between my fingers

I opened three doors I wasn’t behind the last one

I wanted to be a Muslim to be close to my Derya, to ingratiate myself with nice people near her. When I sat on the construction of two mosques in the fortifications, when I participated in the water of resting people, I liked them laughing at me when I say “Elhamdullilallah.” I went to my beloved in the evening and showed the things I drew all day. I looked at Mary on my breast and prayed to God. Some of these moments were interrupted at sovereign’s instigation.

How may this love make it unwillingly go, the marriage of pirate

By saying let her give birth to red headed children

He erased me from the heart of my Derya with a command

Not himself, but his men came, they showed the way free of me

They sent me to that big palace, I appeared before the Sovereign. After all the time there I was, city’s name fitted me, birds found their echoes in me. My Derya, my darling, unaware of me, when she told my drawings to our sovereign I thanked Jesus and Mohammed.

You do it, said our sovereign, his eyebrows were close to each other. I found that funny but his magnificence cut my laugh and I laughed straight into me. He asked me: “What is your name?”

“Leoni, my sultan.”

“Sir Leoni” he said and laughed, he pushed the boy on his right and kissed his neck. He told me that from now on I was going to write for the palace, I wouldn’t draw publicly and I was going to serve him with poems and pictures. I listened. Though I didn’t like writing instead of drawing, I accepted. At that moment, I understood what my master predicted. But I didn’t express my desire to return my country in the phase of “make your wish.” Your health our great sovereign, your health.

He asked my belief one night. “Only Allah, I accepted him one” I said. He asked me to draw him every night. He asked me my master and I told. He liked statues. He told me about the ones in the palace of his pasha. Before the blackness of the pen fell, the night of grief be blessed by love, I couldn’t touch him although I desired. He showed me Paradolli’s obscene drawings one night, I was surprised, I knew some masters who considered them equal with the ones of Da Vinci. The sovereign came near me; he had a jade wire on his beard.

He turned down, snuffed the candles between his fingers I stood.

Privy chamber mist, my eyes couldn’t see, who else there was

MY SOVEREIGN please let me kiss the hem of your garment, how magnificent is the sky

If I threw freedom from your balcony

I could fly, my wings are not broken I grew it on my back

Before my breasts grew up

Feather feather, I come from quill feather

Was it him, was it my father, my reality is being a boy, or for the sake of sovereign

My soul blessed by transition from beauty, I might cover my head with your skirt

I couldn’t, I couldn’t enter that great sovereign’s pubic

But I turned back and bended over in front of him

The breath of landlord with tresses on my head, I couldn’t sleep three nights

Our sovereign our government snoring loudly

I cannot put my tongue in your drunken mouth

That cannot stomach neither voices nor eyes no more

Bath mist, my eyes cannot see, who else there is

Lover responded, era responded and god responded, my prayers in two languages

Allah or Jesus and Mary responded too

I jammed into the corner, watched them all

I could see your head roll right before me,

But first they were dismissed and their worthless heads

My beloved sovereign,

In red clothes, walking to the council

I stopped. I released my breath. Knowing the merchant in my blood.

In his storeroom, at Hagia Irene no one saw, I stuffed my scream in my mouth

Wanted to wear myself out on purpose, they were passing from my hip one by one


I could grouse about janissary, I could win the smile of mother

I could pay off the ones who stabbed her son in the back three years ago

Never ever it’s me, my rise couldn’t be magnificent, and I drew

I had faith in my hands, telling nobody, I fell

There was a game then ink from the men

I painted that game, me

I’m again the one waiting on stony ground then running without steps here and there

My rose, my nightingale, where were you? You’re too late.

His hand on my waist, on my hip, even I cannot

Remember, he erases me from

The power issue I fall down on sleep, dreams sunflower!

Drum beats our heads, the pipe sounds off, we

Stay and crumble away seeking refuge in gods we believe,

Whoever is our god.

Yeh yehita yehi yeha yaevihata yev yev yehitaaa yeh yehu

I was not bathed and purified, I’ve just come

My eyes are on the mist of the bath.

They came out; summer cold of the day hit the shoulders publicly

They couldn’t know where to put the denudation, burnt

Shame on the souls that became harem’s slaves

Beardless me, I couldn’t be, young boy, indeed

I had the right to walk with you in the image of a boy, not a woman

I had the power, my shoulders prosperous, thousands drops away from the desired

Stairs of Galata, your fail at sentences it got in the way of castle

Why am I with you, why am I among you, why doesn’t my anger subside, why

Slopes of the city are prone to become a Turkish style symphony?

For this shame I caused, and sovereign’s clothes in red, so much nudeness

Presaged by everyone, the writing of epistles

Telling the destruction of all afterwards, by means of me, I took the pictures and run

I had the power, huffing and puffing the slope, the minarets seemed small

Prick my head prick my head, in from my mouth out from my tail

Prick, my head.

The city is silent; I didn’t give you your name.

Without denial, I knew I was shown as woman man teenager,

A belt on my waist, a dagger from thin air enclosed

Have no power to use against you.

Although I don’t go beyond government, city, palace and council

Can I tell that my revenge was taken through organizations?

I called none of you, you were unaware of me.

From my mother I got my name at a distance that cannot be measured with paces,

My foot touched the golden road or not, I’ve never enjoyed the music and lyrics.

When I arrived at shore by chance, my purification was not for servitude,

I plunged my hand in the water and anointed my hair.

Hey, hey me, hey who was me? When did I come.

A horse carved from wood in my hand, I called myself over a time of drinking wine.

Pardon me.

I gathered the branches of trees touching your sea, hung them on your neck oily

I wished you be drowned there, with me and I smelled,

First the sovereign, then the judge and landlords, eventually

The same as I pictured and as I killed in that picture

I put my head on the marble of the Place of Felicity

A wet head a newly offered cry

The obstinacy of reign spread on your garments.


Translation: Gözde Zülal Solak

Miniature: MetMuseum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *