Poem: A Turk at Yale

In the Calhoun courtyard; courtesy Resit Ergener

By Resit Ergener

Dropped off in New Haven,
Following a long coach ride from the JFK,
Which I had taken, because of lack of info,
— Rather than a limo 

My introduction to Yale, was by an odd man
Who happened to be the only man,
Hanging out at the Greyhound station
At 2:00 am after midnight 

“This is Yale” was the response of the man,
To my inquiry as to where Yale was
Wide opening his arms, making me feel like
Yale, was the rest of the world, which I would soon be part of 

I plunged into the darkness, that was Yale
Straggling, pulling my suitcase (which had no wheels)
Densely packed with, what a Turkish mom thought
Her son would need through a year at Yale 

I don’t know how, but I managed to reach the campus police station
Where I was directed to my room, McClellan Hall 304
The mattress that was waiting for me had no pillows or sheets
But not nearly as uncomfortable, as similar mattresses would feel at reunions 

I explored the campus the following morning
The only other student around being a senior,
Who had arrived early to settle some business, before school started,
And volunteered to be my mentor and guide, until all other arrived 

My senior friend shared with me, his amazement at how fast years had gone by
I, not aware at the time, that my years would fly as fast, if not faster, once
U Haul carriers descended on campus, unloading furniture and other materials,
and the bed sheets were distributed, and the school year started 

Our room had the best furniture, thanks to the family of our roommate Ken,
Us “roommates,” being  wild bunch, with a snake and a monkey as pets,
With “checkered demon” painted over the fireplace
And with constant commotion through the night 

Encounters of a lifetime seemed to be part of daily routine at Yale, like:
Shaking hands and having a chat with General Westmoreland
Having drinks with one of the founders of the OSS in Istanbul
Having Kennedy’s economic advisor as my professor 

All this at age seventeen, First time away from home, and first time abroad …

Discussing Baryshnikov over dinner with the president of American Ballet 
Observe Prof Montias start his briefing of a defector from the USSR 
Having dinner with Jerzy Kosinski at Davenport 
Rosselini being available for three hours a week to answer questions 

Juan Linz, a favorite professor,  
Expert on authoritarianism and totalitarianism. 
Would spread wisdom 
Sitting under a cloud of cigarette smoke — or was it cigars? 

Most pleasant academic experiences were the conversations 
I had with David Apter, walking with him to lunch at JE, 
From lecture at SSS, with conversation continuing through the meal 
Apter suggested that I become a social anthropologist. 

(I would be an economist, academic, author, poet, goddess enthusiast 
Scholar of religion and economics 
First ever organizer of goddess tours worldwide 
Inspired by no small amount, by the female pioneers in our class) 

I would often end up at the seminar room at the JE Library, 
to have an all-nighter, to complete my assignments, where Rob Kyr would be, 
with his music sheets, pencils, and erasers 

The wisdom, which we probably assumed would be revealed us,  
As we progressed with our work through the night, 
Would most likely elude us, as morning would find us asleep, 
with our heads on the table, covered with books and notes 

All night film festivals were more fun than all-nighters at the library 
My favorite being the submarine movies festival 
The tickets for which 
Came with a submarine sandwich 

The funniest happening, was the most successful Yale Blood Drive ever 
With tickets to Paris and Rome, to be awarded to donors through a lottery 
The catch was, award tickets were for coach rides to Paris and Rome in Ohio, 
— not plane tickets to those in France and Italy 

Jeff Eskin, cried and made us cry, as we said farewell, at the end of the 45th 
Peter Marshall reminded us, that the 50th would be the last, only for our class 
With Ron Claiborne, we never reached Port Said, and most special friend 
was David and his sister Susan Ginsburg and their parents, who 

Made me feel their home in NJ truly as my home away from home 
I can never reciprocate all they did, 
The only consolation being, (I would like to believe), 
That I would have done the same 

All this at age seventeen, 
First time away from home, and first time abroad 
I was not as happy as I could have been 
Often indeed, I was heart broken 

Following eight therapy sessions, offered free by Yale, 
The therapist being the best I would ever have, 
Not uttering a single word or revealing any emotions for eight sessions 
He had me ready for a few weeks of “grand finale” at Yale. 

In retrospect, Yale was an amazing accumulation of human achievement 
At the forefront of knowledge, arts, architecture, and norms and behavior 
Exposure to which, it was expected, would make young do even better 
Which was the agreement implied, that we consented, when accepted 

The lines on our faces and those underlined, being testimony, that we made the effort

Resit Ergener [JE] writes of himself, “Life gave me the chance to do similar things twice. It was Oxford after Yale. Taught mainstream economics and taught ‘religion and economics.’ I was a tour guide and author. I had two marriages. Unhappy with one. Happy with the present one. And I have two wonderful daughters. And, as for the roads that parted in the woods: They all led to poetry.”