Peace and Sorrow

He was benevolent. He was merciless.
He suffered; he oppressed.
He forgave and he avenged;
Praised and condemned.
He eased; he tormented.
He brought laughter; he brought tears.
He said he would explain. He did not.
The night he forsook us,
There was thunder, lightning, rain.
In the morning, it was calm.
Huzur (peace) and hüzün (sorrow).
Apart from a couple of dots and one letter,
The same word.

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The Sea

The sea dead calm. Fishing with a line,
I was all alone, lonely like a bird on the open sea.
Far away from the sorrows of the city,
I touched the veil that separates mortal beings from the heavens.
Murmurs from the sea, like breezes,
Like the voices of divine swans.
Sounds, every instant louder, more vibrant and tense
From a thousand lips, like an exuberant hymn,
Filled the sea’s horizon.
As the ballad of death spread; my face turned pale.
My heart, fearful like birds in this turmoil,
Uneasy, said: “Let’s go back!
Enough!.. Don’t surrender to the harmonies of the dead!”
Suddenly, a thrust from the horizon.
A sea creature parted the calm waters,
Seaweed hair, amiable, giant-like.
I wavered, it said:

“Since the sea’s voice has revealed to you its secret,
Come, break free from the geometry of your narrow being!
Cast yourself to the seas if your final joy is love, taste it!
The carrion around your neck, you call the beloved, be rid of it!
Eyes with languid lashes, full of betrayal,
Despite compassionate looks, long for an opportunity.

Do not be deceived that you thirst, it hungers;
You are a thirsty soul, it is mere flesh and hair.
To the open sea goes the road you await here today.
Throw your heart into the whirlpool, sail, become spirit!”

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

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Tragedies – III (chorus)

All of a sudden, everywhere, you are lonely
And if this is frightening
If even the smallest things are
Like, you ask someone the time
Or cross the street
Talk to someone
Looking around, lowering your voice
If everyday you buy books and magazines
If the postman brings letters everyday
If you hang about a little
In a government office, for instance
Miss a couple of buses one after another, why not
Then again, even if you don’t do anything at all
Oddly enough
Everyone will seem to be looking at your face suspiciously

Or you go to a restaurant, have a chat with the waiter
Order food and wine, that’s all
And smile a little about something that crosses your mind
An insignificant remark or a funny incident
But, a man, just over there
Playing with his coat buttons, biting his nails
May be watching you constantly

Let’s say you are a member of a club,
Feeling just a bit cheerful
Or you are a junior clerk in a bank
Always you are guilty
Always you are guilty
Always guilty and without the strength
For redemption

If a whole crowd of people becomes you
Your face looks like their face, your clothes like theirs
Just like a patient briefly feeling suddenly well
If you could just cry out
An echo: always you are lonely
Always you are lonely

Edip Cansever (1928-1986). Tragedyalar – 3 (koro). Translated from the Turkish.

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Wouldn’t I Know

All these words, what they mean to her, wouldn’t I know
The words and within them the fluttering distances
I wander all alone, not a single soul around
The waterside, the country roads, all deserted
I hear my breath now and then, just my breath
Maybe, I don’t hear, I just know
Under my feet, thyme and wild mint
A wooden door by the road,
Who lost their home or
How did it disappear
Who knows
Down the hill, I go to the waterside
Sit on a stone
As soon as I do
Every vision comes out of its corner
Nature plays a little trick on me
Tirelessly taking my eyes
A pair of coiling, stretching eels
To pebbles rolling along in sunlight
Just then, a boat draws alongside, herald of a long autumn
The sea, a freshly ploughed field, lively and awake
I, oddly enough
Day by day, more and more
Grow accustomed to my loneliness
For a moment, I shiver at the sound of following footsteps
Because of that perhaps
I stop and pretend to be looking around
Flocks of birds take to the air from the bay trees
Yes, flocks, I suddenly see
I have long lost track of the days
They are scattered all around
Like birds
I have nowhere to go
Nor anything to miss
Why then do I write these words to her
Words both full and empty of longing
Slapdash, fragmented
It seems like a day no one has used is left for me

A long Saturday I recall, the time twelve
Lost in thought, I wonder, the time twelve
I light a cigarette, write a few lines of verse on a scrap of paper,
And a few more words, that know well where they are, dignified
But, there is no movement in the minute or the hour hand
Time is like that
Disconsolate, dramatic colours, but hardly moving
Then arrival, the time twelve

I understand
Life is long of course, when we can feel love
Just because of this
Love or passion
Striving to carve and mend love
Is also love.

And as far as I know
A human being is everything
That life is short is a lie
Especially if we are
Conscious of our humanity

In the end, we are alone together again
Together alone, nature and I
Rain has just started, Saturday, today
Tenth of July, Saturday
Another boat leaves the jetty
The rain increases a little
Why not lie down naked on the grass, I say to myself
I do
I love rain now, I love rain now, I love rain.

Edip Cansever (1928-1986). Bilmezmiyim Hiç. Translated from the Turkish.

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Tears in the Photograph

For life maybe one day
For the days past
You may seek consolation
Look then at my photograph
The tears shed

The last thing for you from me
Is a small photograph
It couldn’t reply, but
For your loneliness, it would cry

A handful of memories
Is what remains now
You have left me
On my own

I know where you are
You are not alone
I would have felt sad
If you had lived to see

For life maybe one day
For the days past
You may seek consolation
Look then at my photograph
The tears shed

Mehmet Soyarslan (1944). Resimdeki Gözyaşları. Translated from the Turkish.

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Crying Children

Children cry in houses with shuttered windows,
Just as in rooms evening comes.
Then glows before my eyes,
A crumpled, tearful face.

Whenever darkness covers the earth,
Children’s great sorrow begins;
Full of fear, their eyes look around:
What if day never comes?

As sounds gradually die down,
Blindfolded in the night by a black hand,
I hear crying, sheltering inside me,
A tiny child, orphaned…

Necip Fazıl Kısakürek (1904-1983). Ağlayan Çocuklar. Translated from the Turkish.

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White Dove

Gliding from the blue sky towards the earth
A white dove landed on my shoulder

I held it in my hand, gently stroked and
Caressed it, I relived my youth

Pure white, so bright were its feathers
If I opened my hand, it would swiftly take flight

I lent over, whispered into its ear, don’t leave, I said
Wanting to kiss its moire eyes

In my hands, I felt its warmth
Its years of remoteness from me

I listened to its fluttering heart
Wanting to fly together towards the sky

The white dove had large eyes
And out of its beauty a fountain sprang

I drank its cool refreshing water
Listened to the sound of a cascading river

Perhaps love was this, life, perhaps
I was beaming, my eyes full of tears

A melody came from joy and delight
A melody came from beauty and white

It held out its pink beak lovingly
In that moment, I learnt the meaning of life

It was my destiny to find love in you
To be a pair of doves, I and you

Ümit Yaşar Oğuzcan (1926-1984). Beyaz Güvercin. Translated from the Turkish.

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