Oblivious

Oblivious of the sound of
Nuts cracking open on trees,
Oblivious of
The falling rain, the ringing bells, people chatting;
No smell of seaweed,
Lobsters, prawns,
Sea breeze
How much is lost…

Orhan Veli (1914-1950). Bir Duyma da Gör. Translated from the Turkish.

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Far From Gardens

To Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar

No more do I fancy the world of light, fragrance, colour,
Nor smell the coquettish carnation or the charming jasmine.

The white virgin lily, the fiery tulip,
Distract me no more.

I long no more for the dawn of April’s lilac blossom,
Nor miss the blush of Judas trees on the hills.

Even if each morning dawned another spring, I’ve settled down,
I’m hurt by roses, I stay far from gardens.

Yahya Kemal Beyatlı (1884-1958). Bahçelerden Uzak. Translated from the Turkish.

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People go one way,
Houses another,
Not to meet again.

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(Pieces)

I
I am Ahmet, Mehmet or Durmuş,
Sitting by the coast one evening;
God is gone, leaving me alone,
Down-and-out, helpless, weak.
My direction lost in the night, my face indistinct;
Either the End, I sink, or I’m born, the Beginning.
No echo from the mountains, nor from the seas,
None of those who blew me onto the earth talk anymore, all dead;
Where they are, what covers them, who knows.
……………………………………………………………………………………
………………………………………………………………………………but,
Where the young courted for me,
A story was heard in the very old days…
Returning empty-handed, the fishermen
Were content to fish for this story in hidden crannies
And feel filled with new Ahmets,
New Durmuşes, new Mehmets.

II
By the same coast hereafter I stand,
Say I’m Ahmet, Mehmet or Durmuş;
Weary. Weary with words,
Love, blood, unjust death,
Weary. In deprivation, lonely,
Just skin and bone, a wreck.
Nature has set its eternity against me,
Reflecting shapes from a thousand mirrors,
Offering hair, white hands, skin… from caves,
With calls of the sweetest melodies,
To deceive the spirit, the scheme of infinity;
It delights in my supreme fatigue.
Around my feet, my shroud of
Woven longings tangle up … So difficult to leave!
But, sirens ceaselessly sing.

Us, the little ones, ants and insects,
Humans, mice, spiders,
Louses that hunger for each other;
Darting through the sky, vivid, tiny birds,
The first messengers of space and the bitter
Screams of remoteness, the weariness of waiting…
All of us, Nature’s toys,
To be broken to be remade.
In a universal rhyme, lined up
To act and, at the end, leave.
Whether Ahmet, Mehmet or Durmuş,
Once on the wheel of Nature,
To roll, to roll and roll this torture…
Here ends the diary written for me.

III
One year, one day,
Ahmet, Mehmet, Durmuş, whoever I am;
The sky, deep blue, sifted towards me
As stars…and Nature,
With its soldiers, revelled in confronting me.
So beautiful was life,
The endless desire to
Breath, sing, gaze,
Drink, love, sleep, die…
…………………………………………………………………
Say I am in Sinop or in Istanbul;
How could I forget that night:
Glistening fish bathed in the phosphorescence of the sea;
And fishermen, blessed, sacred, imaginary,
Catching miracles, inside nets made of clouds
……………………………………………………………………
Linked between the first grain of sand and the last star,
In the temple of Freedom……………………
……………………………………………………………………………………
Someone lame came, offering his hand,
Pus coloured, shameless, foolish.
He said, “I am the Prophet of Freedom!” and wept.
His eyes blinded my eyes:
I had an arrow, I shot it. The angel was hit.
I am both Ahmet, Mehmet and Durmuş.
Now, where ever I go,
Disgust with loathing confronts me.
O, the face looking at me with pity from afar!
Master, put it down among my greatest sins,
This pitying face. To rancour love has turned;
I wanted to cling to it, alas, it is gone,
Flying in the void…I fly too.
I can’t grasp it. Never! Ever! No way.
If there is a poisonous arrow in eternity
And if the soul is eternal, my soul…
…………………………………………………………………
The beautiful, the glorious one, our Khan!
Are you a banner, waiving on what tower?
Are you that same lame creature, purulent faced?
Day and night, whipping us,
From war to war, you lead us.
Evil, armoured head to toe,
If it is guns that kill, freedom is in your hands.
Blindness for brothers and sisters, nations and nations…
………………………………………………………………………
Time flows like rivers under bridges.
Whatever we did… was for freedom
………………….we destroyed, we discarded.
The deranged, street by street, we shepherded,
Frenzies fading in waters of death,
And the songs we sang were all for freedom.
Principles, ideals……………………………………
O Lord, what is this misfortune, this you and me, me and you.
What kind of bread is it that only with blood can be had?
Lives God couldn’t take, we took with our hands…here it is, their blood!
Just food for our freedom.
Over there, the lame creature was laughing up his sleeve at us.
We were sacrificing people to the mountains,
……………………………………………………… hanging them
……………………………………………………… like blue flags.
………………………………………………………………………………….
Their bodies will wave in the heavens,
Sorrow, once in the heart,
Will slowly grow worm ridden. The dead, strong… as if alive.
But, freedom must be to hear the heart,
To hear every soul, to love the whole universe.

And, at the end of a night, alone, by the coast,
I am looking at the clouds all over the horizon.
Would someone give me a glass of water, just a sip.
Here they are, Ahmets, Mehmets and Durmuşes,
As a trio – or singly – hand in hand, have crucified
The sailors, who were to cross to the other side.
……………………………………………………………………………..
“Water…” no use in seeking solace!
Is it possible to quench the thirst for blood?

IV
I am Ahmet, Mehmet or Durmuş,
Sitting by this coast this evening.
I feel fine here now, I am free;
No boundaries for me, I would walk right up to eternity.
No fear of night or day.
O, the idol, the beautiful face, even you are not with me!
Only you I miss, but such a loss,
Being without you till the end of the universe!

This fast moving blue above us
And the red setting fire to roses, in autumn,
The stars, the flow of love, the waters, the woods,
Humans, animals… whatever, wherever they are.
All in her honour, they were, but she died.
In the evening, just like the setting sun,
Taking with her all the beauties in my world.
Powerless, I was left and then
The end of the task. Meaningless now, who or what…
No more am I Ahmet, or Mehmet or Durmuş.

Ahmet Muhip Dranas (1908-1980). (Parçalar). Translated from the Turkish.

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Down the Street from Atik-Valde

Before iftar*, I went to Atik-Valde**,
The streets I’ve visited so often, today again
Were quiet. Yet, with the piety of Ramadan,
Stillness had turned to sweet anticipation.
The fasting local residents, their faces lean,
One by one were returning from the bazaar;
Poorer girls stayed waiting at the grocer’s:
Soon the cannon would fire for iftar.
No one at all left in the square;
The sound of the cannon ends the day on this side.
Once it booms and fasting comes to an end,
A luminous joy surrounds the mud brick houses.
How refreshing O’ Lord, how pure is this world!

In the desolate street I was left, no fast, no joy.
The sadness of being apart from homeland’s fast,
I felt an endless evening of home sickness in my soul.
Just one comforting thought there was for my agony;
Consolingly, I told myself,
“Separation from them is my ceaseless sorrow,
As long as I have such feelings, thankful I should be.”

Yahya Kemal (1884-1958). Atik-Valde’den İnen Sokakta. Translated from the Turkish.

* The breaking of the daily Ramadan fast at sunset. ** A district on the Asian side of Istanbul.

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Solitary Evening

Wandering in the country one evening,
Fairies lived everywhere, thought I.
Looking with amazement at the wilderness,
It was filled with the beauty of mystery, thought I.

Mountains, rocks, walked with me,
Shadows followed the trees,
Everything, I believed, could see me,
The world was happy with my presence, thought I.

For this solitary place, since eternity past,
Lullabies, a cool river has sung;
To me, too, the grove revealed its secret,
My youth lay there, thought I.

Pine trees, the mythical bird with open wings,
Meadows, the starry heavens,
Strangely mysterious flowers,
Astonished at everything, it was magic, thought I.

A time of love, nightingales sang,
A sound of happiness filled the cypress grove,
Flowers wished for birds’ kisses,
The universe was madly in love, thought I.

It was like autumn time,
Rusty-brown, the earth, clouds and leaves;
Cypress trees darkened, in mourning,
The contemplating rocks felt sad, thought I.

The West aflame with parting,
Birds all back in their roosts,
The sun rested against the hills,
It was hurt, ill and tired, thought I.

I drank the flowing colour of the sun,
My soul burning with elation;
As I saw that blood red horizon,
Like me, the heavens were deep in sorrow, thought I.

Violet were the mountain ranges,
Red, the waters, watched by a fairy.
The evening star kissed her brow,
In love with her green eyes, thought I.

There were tulips by the waters,
Fiery rings of light in lakes,
Echoes of wailing from afar,
A gazelle was pierced through the heart, thought I.

The Moon and Pleiades inhaled the colour of beauty
From the day’s pale end in its death throes;
All seemed tinted pink that night,
The moonlight was rose-coloured, thought I.

Rıza Tevfik Bölükbaşı (1869-1949). Şam-ı Gariban. Translated from the Turkish.

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The Island

Eleven years later.
On the same chair.
Morning, half six.
Lesbos right in front of me,
So close.
Three villages on the hills.
The island desolate, mostly.
By the shore, an Ottoman castle,
In tune with the bleak, beautiful surroundings.
The sun is rising.
The island illumines.
As evening comes, darkness in blind corners,
Houses turn on their lights.
The castle, with its dim lights like pearls strung out towards the sea,
About to move across to this side.
At night, the island comes closer.
Tomorrow morning, everything will be in its place:
The island, the villages and the chair on the opposite coast.

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