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

To Him Who is Feared

We present this work in honor of Tisha B’Av.

07-18 Ben Kalir
Eleazar Ben Kalir
Turkish
c. 570 – c. 640

 

To Him who is feared a Crown will I bring.
Thrice Holy each day acclaim Him my King;
At altars, ye mighty, proclaim loud His praise,
And multitudes too may whisper His lays.
Ye angels, ye men, whose good deeds He records—
Sing, He is One, His is good, our yoke is the Lord’s!
Praise Him trembling to-day, His mercy is wide—
Ye who fear for His wrath—it doth not abide!
Ye seraphim, high above storm clouds may sing;
Men and angels make music, th’ All-seeing is king.
As ye open your lips, at His Name they shall cease—
Transgression and sin—in their place shall be peace;
And thrice shall the Shophar re-echo your song
On mountain and altar to whom both belong.

Sacred Are Our Women

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 65th birthday.

05-31 Ertan
Semra Ertan
Turkish
1956 – 1982

 

Waiting for them each quarter
Are neither surgeons nor doctors
They don’t have to travel to Paris or Nice
They don’t follow fashion trends –
Since they can’t find magazines and newspapers

Because the roads to the villages were blocked for months
But even if they could, they couldn’t read them
Because as children they were denied education, because
They were not sent to school

Qasadi 25 in Praise of Sultan Suleyman

Hayâlî
Turkish
c.1500 – 1557

 

In the garden, the rose commanded a cavalry of flowers,
And put to flames again the dwelling place of the bulbul.

In the crucible of the bud the nightingale purifies gold,
That the rose might craft itself a ring for its ear.

The rose will not open the opium-vial of the bud to the knowers of mysteries,
So long as it is withdrawn, master of the secret of the trance.

The bulbul teaches the Parliament of birds to the garden of children,
Like the Perfumer, ‘Attar, the rose makes clear its every chapter.

Eager waiting opens wounds in the nightingale’s heart.
O Lord! Why does the rose keep such a tight collar on the bud?

Know this! In the rosebower every leaf is a page of delicate meaning,
Each bud The treasury of inner truth, each rose The dawn of illumination.

Truly, the flame and cotton can have no dance together.
The roses enfold the bulbul, like a salamander, in flames.

It is the black burn at its breast that makes each poppy loved,
So the rose in the meadow cannot shy from the cruelty of the thorn.

No wonder the flames of jealousy turn the bulbul to ash;
The playful rose hangs, laughing from the neck of every branch.

The rose made the bulbul’s nest a howdah for its kin,
Thus it seems to have made ready its caravan of exile.

It is time the rose caused the mouths of baby nightingales to open,
And thus make shepherd’s pipes of the bulbul’s nest.

The rose begs the morning breeze for the dust of the Monarch’s feet
As salve to cure the eye of the ailing narcissus of the garden.

What a Lord is Sultan Suleyman, the sound and firm of heart,
For whom the sun is but a gilded rosette on the portico of his palace!

The scent that wafts from the markets of China is but a trace of his virtue’s scent.
The rose, lord of flowers, is but a leaf in the chapter of his generosity.

Were it not, once a year, to bow its head in the dust at his feet,
The rose would not have bejewelled its ruby crown with pearls of dew.

Your enemy’s head, drenched in blood on the point of your spear,
Is like that tall and slender sapling tipped by a rose.

In the era of your justice, it is time that the rose beg mercy, O Shah!
For taking the blood of the bulbul, to rouge its face.

The bud is ever tight-lipped but in describing your justice;
And the rose recites no litany but that of your kind gifts.

My Lord, I came but to rub my face in the tracks of your hounds.
To me they are the only thornless roses in the bower of this world.

The rose made the nest of the bulbul a bowl for begging,
And thus came importunate to your court like a ragged dervish.

The rose-bush has adorned itself with brands all bloody,
O lord of beauty, since it became the lover of your face.

Tears made of dew are born on the rose’s face,
As it bewails the ill fortune of your slave Hayâlî.

O you, mighty as Jemshid, though I be transitory, my words live on.
The rose itself is destroyed but its traces remain in the rose-water.

Though I have come after Necâtĺ and Nevâyî, why sorrow?
The thorn sprouts first from the branch and after the thorn, a rose.

Though the thorn of grief bloodied my heart like the bud,
The fruit of the sprout of my fortune’s garden is a rose.

Just as every point of rain has for its source a cloud,
As the roses are drawn without compasses in the shapes of circles,

Let prosperity be the bud of the rose-bower of your reign,
And you, with rose-garden cheeks, smile like a rose at every breath.

dressed in time

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 55th birthday.

Yeşim Ağaoğlu
Turkish
b. 1966

 

she took off every thing that was on her
stark naked her body
save for the watch on her arm
jet-black wrist watch
so she donned that wrist watch, dressed herself up in time
like putting on a black cloak
the year was the space quarter, the season winter
the day tuesday
life lived on the spur of the moment as always
the watch works ticking on
her body works ticking on, forever alert
time, ever so abstract
now melted, dripping
as in dali’s painting
and where the hands of the watch meet
ıs her most punctual spot now.

Let Us Bestow Joy

In honor of the Turkish holiday, Republic Day, we present this work by one of Turkey’s most celebrated poets.

Nedim
Turkish
1681 – 1730

 

Let us bestow joy upon this heart filled with woe;
let us go to Sa’dabad, my beloved cypress;
here is the six-oared boat awaiting us;
let us go to Sa’dabad, my beloved cypress.

Let us laugh and play, let us enjoy the world;
let us drink nectar from the newly-made fountain;
let us watch the elixir pour from the dragon’s mouth;
let us go to Sa’dabad, my beloved cypress.

Let us go, for a while, and wander around the pond;
let us later gaze upon the Heavenly Pavilion;
let us always sing songs and recite poems;
let us go to Sa’dabad, my beloved cypress.

Ask your mother’s permission to go to the Friday prayer;
let us steal a day from reproachful destiny;
going through the secret roads towards the quay,
let us go to Sa’dabad, my beloved cypress.

Just you and me and a nice, old musician and,
if you permit, the mad poet Nedim,
let us, today, forget about the others;
let us go to Sa’dabad, my beloved cypress.

You Are Indispensable

We present this work in honor of the 15th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Attilâ İlhan
Turkish
1925 – 2005

 

You are indispensable; how can you not know
that you’re like nails riveting my brain?
I see your eyes as ever-expanding dimensions.
You are indispensable; how can you not know
that I burn within, at the thought of you?

Trees prepare themselves for autumn;
can this city be our lost Istanbul?
Now clouds disintegrate in the darkness
as the street lights flicker
and the streets reek with rain.
You are indispensable, and yet you are absent …

Love sometimes seems akin to terror:
a man tires suddenly at nightfall,
of living enslaved to the razor at his neck.
Sometimes he wrings his hands,
expunging other lives from his existence.
Sometimes whichever door he knocks
echoes back only heartache.

A screechy phonograph is playing in Fatih …
a song about some Friday long ago.
I stop to listen from a vacant corner,
longing to bring you an untouched sky,
but time disintegrates in my hands.
Whatever I do, wherever I go,
you are indispensable, and yet you are absent …

Are you the blue child of June?
Ah, no one knows you—no one knows!
Your deserted eyes are like distant freighters …
perhaps you are boarding in Yesilköy?
Are you drenched there, shivering with the rain
that leaves you blind, beset, broken,
with wind-disheveled hair?

Whenever I think of life
seated at the wolves’ table,
shameless, yet without soiling our hands …
Yes, whenever I think of life,
I begin with your name, defying the silence,
and your secret tides surge within me
making this voyage inevitable.
You are indispensable; how can you not know?

A Single Word Can Brighten the Face

In honor of the Turkish holiday, Victory Day, we present this work by Turkey’s greatest folk poet.

Yunus Emre
Turkey
1238 – 1320

 

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns the universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words —
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.

Today I Drank Wine and Was Drunk

Pir Sultan Abdal
Turkish
1480 – 1550

 

Today I drank wine and was drunk
I swear, I cannot hold my tongue
Today I was so pleased with my Dervish
I swear, I forgot all about death

The world appears completely empty
My Dervish brings me pleasure
He is exuberant whenever he loves
I swear, I love my Dervish

The morsel the Dervish proffers is permitted for me
The tavern is my pilgrim‘s kabaa
The barking of the patrolling hounds
I swear, does not block my way

Let the Dervish come and be cross with me
Let my arm embrace his neck
Let the arms that are drawn away be broken
I swear, I cannot withdraw my arm

If I enter his embrace uncovered
If he sleeps and I love silently
If he awakes and he speaks rudely
I swear, I cannot withdraw my hand

I am Latife I am so shameless
I love greatly and I am so brazen
I know nothing of shame and honour
I swear, I will pluck my rose

Fahriye Abla

We present this work in honor of the 40th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Ahmet Muhip Dıranas
Turkish
1909 – 1980

 

The air filled with a pungent charcoal smell
And the doors closed before sunset;
From that neighborhood as languid as a laudanum
You are the only surviving trace in my memory, you
Who smiled at the vast light of her own dreams.
With your eyes, your teeth, and your white neck
What a sweet neighbor you were, Fahriye abla!

Your house was as small as a neat box;
Its balcony thickly intertwined and the shades
Of ivies at the tiny hours of the sunset
Washed over in a nearby hidden brook.
A green flowerpot stood in your window all year round
And in spring acacias blossomed in your garden
What a charming neighbor you were, Fahriye abla!

Earlier you had long hair, then short and styled;
Light-complexioned, you were as tall as an ear of corn,
Your wrists laden with ample golden bracelets
Tickled the heart of all men
And occasionally your short skirt swayed in the wind.
You sang mostly obscene love songs
What a sexy neighbor you were, Fahriye Abla!

Rumors had it that you were in love with that lad
And finally you were married to a man from Erzincan
I don’t know whether you still live with your first husband
Or whether you are in Erzincan of snowy mountaintops.
Let my heart recollect the long-forgotten days
Things that live in memory do not change by time
What a nice neighbor you were, Fahriye Abla!