Bucak500x622My work is to write this sentence and revise it into that sentence. To take this word and replace it with that word.

My work is a novel I wrote from five to seven a.m. for more than two years and that will never be published.

My work is to be the person you trust to tell the truth, even though I am a known liar.

My work is to see who you are and who I think you could become. To notice the slate grey night lit by a full moon half behind a cloud. To know what it is to want more from someone than they are willing to give. To see the shadows cast by your secrets. To notice an ant that has drowned in a single drop of water in my sink.

My work is to explain my heart even though I cannot explain my heart. My work is to find the right word even though there is no right word.

My work is to remember that I always wanted to be a writer and that one day my father turned to a friend of his and said, “This is my daughter, she is trying to be a writer,” and then he corrected himself and said, “She is a writer.”

My work is to stop everything when a student—right in front of me—writes the line, “I think I would be a better dancer if only I had wings.”

My work is to believe in grace even though I don’t believe in God. To realize that all of my greatest fears are things that are definitely going to come true. My father will die, my mother will die, my brother will, my niece, my nephew, me.

My work is to pay attention when my mother says, “I cried all of my tears that first year I lived in Turkey.” To pay attention when my mother says of her freshman roommate, “It was like Tigger rooming with Owl.” To pay attention when my father says, “You should sit by my side and write down everything I say like the Prophet.” To pay attention when my father says, “Chickens are braver than us.” To pay attention when my nephew says to his sister, “All of your teeth are sweet teeth.” To pay attention when my nephew says to me, “I’d like to see how long you’d last in Azkaban without a book.”

My work is to tell you that without art we would be in a world without art.

My work is the blood on the heels of my socks in high school because I ran hard sometimes, but not always, so that my calluses came and went.

My work is to honor the glory of trash day, all of those cans lined up before dawn, an obedient nation in this one instance only.

My work is to believe in everybody’s capacity for kindness.

My work is to believe in everybody’s capacity for cruelty.

My work is the bird of dawn, the tale of my grief, the thief of love, the city of beauties, the nest of snakes, the helping animal, the animated doll, the transformative power of love, the juice of a single grape.

My work is to imagine a world without art so that there is never a world without art.

My work is to tell you this:

Years ago I was on the subway in Manhattan, and we stopped between stations, and the staticky voice came on the speaker and said there would be a delay of twenty minutes, and cursing ripped through the car, as if a tribe of the homeless mad had just swept into our presence. But then a young woman across from me took out a small pile of paper, and she started folding red origami swans, and each time she finished one, she handed it to one of us.

My work is my origami swans.

A. Papatya Bucak teaches in the MFA program at Florida Atlantic University.  Her prose has been included in a variety of magazines, including Creative Nonfiction and The Normal School, and her short fiction has been selected for the O. Henry Prize Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies.

Photography by Liz Wuerffel