The Melodies of Forest and Light

We present this work in honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day.

Lale Müldür
Turkish
b. 1956

 

to Ömer

For it is written of them, they will not believe
even a voice from out of the grave
“I, Lazarus, have come from the dead.”
Transfiguration!
The Holy Prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus
As a race that comes from one another!
Those who did not see Elijah in John the Baptist
How could they ever see Muhammed, Moses, Jesus, each Holy Prophet,
A wretch whose every journey begins from the desert
One who suffers, one who is always about to be killed!
Pitiful human being!
Who does not hear the melodies of forest and light
Whose eyes are veiled by arrogance
Who mutters delusions of infinity
Who builds castles and houses,
as though to dwell there to infinity
Even the disciples
Wanting to build a tabernacle of leaves
For Moses, Elijah, and Jesus
meeting on the mountaintop
They were nothing but uncomprehending servants
O those who take themselves seriously!
Integrals of arrogance!
For it is written, they will not
believe even a voice from out of the grave

“I, Lazarus, have come from the dead”
And the disciples saw
Jesus turn to light
His garments transfigure in a weird whiteness.
Jezebel’s hatred and Elijah
Herodias’ hatred and John
The Jews’ hatred and Jesus
Prophets!
Rough drafts of one another!
Melodies of forest and light!
Behold a swan,
For you,
Splitting into particles of light!

One Day, Early in the Morn’

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 95th birthday.

Turgut Uyar
Turkish
1927 – 1985

 

Let’s say I knock on your door early one morning,
And wake you up:
That is, the fog still hasn’t lifted off the Golden Horn
The ferry boats are blowing off their horns
It’s still the wee hours of the dawn
The bridge would still be up.
If I knock on your door one day early in the morn’ …
Let’s say my trip has taken me a while
The train has crossed over iron bridges in the night
Villages on top of the mountains with five or ten houses,
Telegraph poles along the route
They were running to keep up with us.
Let’s say I sang songs out from the window
Let’s say I kept dozing off and waking up again
My ticket was third class,
So much for poverty.
Let’s say I couldn’t afford that meerschaum necklace,
So I bought you an apple from Sapanca.
“Haydarpasa here I come,” is how I arrived
The ferry boat shimmering at the pier,
Somewhat of a chill in the air,
The sea smelling tar and fishes
Let’s say I crossed to the other side with a row boat from the bridge
In a single breath I climbed up our hill…
If I knock on your door in the wee hours of one morn’
“Who is it?” you’d ask sleepily from the other side
Your hair mussed up, still feeling groggy
God knows how beautiful you’d look my love,
If I knock on your door early one morning,
And wake you up from your sleep,
That is, the fog still hasn’t lifted off the Golden Horn
The factory whistles are blowing.

Translation by Ugur Akinci

Defense Against the Night

We present this work in honor of the Commemoration of Ataturk.

05-19 Daglarca
Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca
Turkish
1931 – 2008

 

This man is dead and gone but
Time did not fall in the ground for long.
To the trees we delivered his life.
To whom does his heart belong?

This man is dead and gone but
We could not leave the dead man’s side.
In the endless sorrow of our nights
Why does this pallor never subside?

This man is dead and gone but
Still the river would not stay,
And like the birds of a glorious fate
It can carry him away.

 

Translation by Talat Sait Halman

The Hidden Treasure Is in Me

We present this work in honor of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.

04-23 Abdal
Kaygusuz Abdal
Turkish
1341 – 1444

The ocean, the endless sky,
the quarry and the gems are in me.
Open your eyes, look carefully:
both worlds are in me.

The spirit and the body,
the proof and the evidence,
both profit and loss—
the whole marketplace is in me.

I am the purpose of mankind,
the whirling movement of the earth;
I am the school and the knowledge—
the seal of completion is in me.

I am the Muslim. I am the Christian.
I am the place they both consider holy.
I am the crucified savior, the good and the evil—
whatever is—is in me.

I am the Infinite, the Eternal;
I am the wealthy and the poor;
I am the rememberer and what is remembered—
Faith and faithlessness are in me.

I am the idol that is worshipped,
the Kaaba* and the sacred relic—
the purpose of human beings
and all that comes with them is in me.

I am the light particle and the sun itself,
the hidden and the seen;
I am everything existing under its rays
Lover and Beloved are in me.

I am Kaygusuz Abdal, the soul in everyone.
I am the infinite and the eternal.
The hidden treasure is in me.

Advice

We present this work in honor of the 310th anniversary of the poet’s death.

04-10 Nabi
Yusuf Nabi
Turkish
1642 – 1712

 

Look you, most poetry of novice poets
Is lovelocks and hyacinths,
Roses and nightingales,
Wine and cup

They cannot leave
The orbit of the beloved
The body and cheek,
Lip and moist eye

Now they wander to spring,
Then to the meadow
And touch upon the cypress,
The rose and jasemin

They cannot walk
The untrodden path
Nor turn on
The less-travelled road

They can neither hunt
Poetry’s exalted ideas
Nor lasso the unseen world’s game

They make their way
On commonplaces
On well-known and experienced words

That double couplet bends
Under two donkey-loads of stuff
The cloth of its meaning
Cannot be fresh

So do not compose poetry
With empty words
Do not draw your net
Fishless from the sea

Days Do Not Pass

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 115th birthday.

02-25 Ali
Sabahattin Ali
Turkish
1907 – 1948

 

Flowers do not bloom here
Birds do not glide
Stars do not shine
Days do not pass

I pace the courtyard
Sometimes I sit and think
I see all kinds of dreams
Days do not pass, they do not

Say it’s spring outside
People wander around
Days fly by
Days do not pass, they do not

Old loves in my heart
Streams in my eyes
Your dream in the mirror cries
Days do not pass, they do not

A stranger sleeps next to me
Every word is bitter like poison
The strongest of all troubles
Days do not pass, they do not

 

Translation by Eda Savaseri

Dream of Istanbul

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

12-27 Ersoy
Mehmet Akif Ersoy
Turkish
1873 – 1936

 

The boat was rolling over in an ocean…
The dream threw me on the shores of Marmara!
I saw from only a couple of miles away
your blackened Istanbul clear as crystal,
Its forehead shining like a crescent:
She’s laughing; coquettish, charming and attractive.

What base destitution now, alas!
What arrogance, what ostentation!
Many schools are opened, men and women study;
factories are in full steam, textile industries progress.
Printing houses work day and night.
New companies emerge for the benefit of the people,
New parties arise to enlighten the people,

Economy prospers
And ships unload wealth from length to length of her shores.

 

Translation by Mevlut Ceylan

Hymn on the Nativity

12-22 Ephrem
Ephrem of Nisibis
Turkish
c. 306 – 373

 

Your mother is a cause for wonder: the Lord entered her
and became a servant; He who is the Word entered
—and became silent within her; thunder entered her
—and made no sound; there entered the Shepherd of all,
and in her he became the Lamb, bleating as he came forth.
Your mother’s womb has reversed the roles:
the Establisher of all entered in His richness,
but came forth poor; the Exalted One entered her,
but came forth meek; the Splendrous One entered her,
but came forth having put on a lowly hue.
The Mighty One entered, and put on insecurity
from her womb; the Provisioner of all entered
—and experienced hunger; He who gives drink to all entered
—and experienced thirst: naked and stripped
there came forth from her He who clothes all.

 

Translation by Eugene Peterson

Door

In honor of Republic Day, we present this work by one of modern Turkey’s most prominent poets.

10-29 Keskin
Birhan Keskin
Turkish
b. 1963

 

Pass through me, I’ll remain, I’ll wait, pass through me,
but where you pass through me I cannot know.

I was told, there’s a ripe fruit behind the curtain of patience,
the world will teach you both patience, and the ripe fruit’s taste.

They said, you waited like these trees, a vision like these trees,
sorrowful like these trees.

I was opened, I was closed, opened, closed, I saw
those who went as much as those who came,
where is the end of patience, where the grief-stricken ass,
where the audacious fruit,
where is the garden?

If only someone would come… if only someone would see… someone had come… opened… stayed
she stays with me still.

For how long this emptiness rings within me, who
slayed the garden’s merry widow, the mulberry opposite me?
I glanced with it the most, wanted so much
just once for it to speak.

Were it all up to me I’d have kept quiet longer, yet I creaked wearily,
lest the rusted lock of my tongue be undone,
a stray line somewhere be hummed, the worms inside me crawl.

I saw it all, I saw it all, the end of patience!
if someone would come, would see, would see, now,
the wind is swaying me.

 

Translation by George Messo

You’re Gone—I’m Alone

In honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day, we present this work by one of the country’s most heartfelt poets.

08-30 Nesati
Neşâtî
Turkish
1623 – 1674

 

You’re gone—I’m alone in the company of longing
I no longer want sweet talk with friends if you’re not there

I dare not go to the garden without you
The laughing rose seems red as fire, the swaying cypress a pointed flame

Let me tear a cry from my breast, let me voice such pain
The wheel of the sky turns backward, along with the shining sun

The passing cup at the party is a whirlpool of sadness without you
A whirlpool of bright wine inside the turning bowl

What a shame! Poor Neşâtî is so sick with grief and pain
Both the skirt of companionship, and its collar, are torn by separation’s thorn