Back to Issue Forty-Seven

His Mantle Lingering, Or Obit 65


‘Obit’ After Victoria Chang


Mehmet Almata, my ata, died like myth under an apple tree. He fashioned his own name out of the carvings he carried with him, all the way from Almaty to Turkey. Almaty contains the only wild apple forests, the very origin of the fruit. They were killed off, fought back, torn down. They remain, haunt their own graves, unwieldy as they are to those that claim to tend them. Some things always grow back.

Apples were spread around the world with seeds taken by birds & bears—a creation that had paws and beaks, made every apple pie that we eat have savageness within it. According to family, Almata means wise ancestors, but also sometimes apple father, like those trees who came before him. All of this to say, he died like myth. A man under an apple tree like Issac Newton, or Johnny Appleseed. He keeps more like a legend than a memory, wavering in the pictures. Whistles when called but never speaks. He keeps close all the same, in our name and his mantle lingering. 

In Turkey, he’d meet another refugee and never recover. This makes him half of maybe the only good romance in our family. After war, there was Hatice, ingrained into every iteration I could tell of this story. This is a poem’s equivalent of a blessing. Nearly a century later, I’d look at the records and discover he named all their daughters together after his mother. Mükerrem, Müterrem, Müyesser, Müşerref, all for Muharrem. He must have loved her. If so, he never mentioned. Strict and proper as he was, I apologized to air when first writing this. But it seems he loves well. It seems he forgives me. 

When Kazakhstan shrunk under the Soviet gaze, he took with him his life and left the memories. Still, greedy as we were, we passed down his offhand comments like hadiths. There’s a long lost photo of him as a soldier, horse mounted with his sword at the ready. It means nothing to no war, like he quietly asked of the world, our paint sealed memories. He never spoke of these things. He drank strong vodka like the muslim gentleman he was and kept his mustache neat. He died under an apple tree, carried from an Almaty that followed him like a stray, by paw and by beak.

Dilara Sümbül (or Almata Sümbül) is a writer from San Francisco and student at UC Berkeley. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Flat Ink, and has work recognized by The National YoungArts Foundation. She was born in the Mission District as the daughter to an accountant and a teacher, and is the descendent of Kahramanmaraş, Istanbul, Almaty, and their literature. More of her writing can be found at

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