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!

Her and Me

Sait Faik Abasiyanik
Turkish
1906 – 1954

 

I am running towards you in a boat

to not to die, not to go insane…
to live; to live far away from all the expectations
to live…
It is not warm the memory of her lips; no, it is not;
Not the scent of her hair
None of that.
In days like these, when the world is trembling with tempests
I cannot do without her.
Her hand has to be in mine,
I have to look at her eyes,
Have to hear her voice.
We have to eat together
And sometimes laugh.
I do not, I cannot do without her.
You my ugly girl,
You my bread, my poison;
My flavor, my sleep.
I cannot do without you!

Optimistic Man

Nazim Hikmet
Turkish
1902 – 1963

 

as a child he never plucked the wings off flies
he didn’t tie tin cans to cats’ tails
or lock beetles in matchboxes
or stomp anthills
he grew up
and all those things were done to him
I was at his bedside when he died
he said read me a poem
about the sun and the sea
about nuclear reactors and satellites
about the greatness of humanity

Staircase

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

Ahmet Haşim
Turkish
1884 – 1933

 

Slowly, slowly will you mount this stairway
—A heap of sun-tinged leaves upon your skirts–
And for a while gaze weeping at the sky…

The waters darken and your face grows pale,
Look at the scarlet air, for evening comes…

Bowed towards the earth, the roses endless glow,
Flame-like the nightingales bleed upon the boughs;
Has marble turned to bronze, do waters burn?

This is a secret tongue that fills the soul
Look at the scarlet air, for evening comes…

In Praise of the Divers Instruments of Music

In honor of National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, we present this work by one of Turkey’s cleverest poets.

Rewani
Turkish
1475 – 1524

 

Come hither, Mistrel of the Feast of Time,
Whose minstrelsy ennobleth every clime!
As thou the songster at Joy’s Banquet art,
Wilt thou not look on us in kindly part?
Let all the feast be filled with melody,
Let beauties carol in thy company.
Be all the instruments of music blent,
And let the veil of mystery be rent.
For each is potent in some gramarye,
Magicians some, and some enchaters be.

The Harp in magic craft is great of worth,
It brings the new moon down from heaven to earth.
The Mandoline pursues its humours e’er;
If thou would have it sing, then twist its ear.
The Mandoline can’t grapple with the Lute;
Then why torment itself when naught can boot?
A spell it sings when chants the Dulcimer;
It is the ruler for Love’s register.
No Tabret deem that in the minstrel’s hand,
A target ‘tis woe’s arrows to withstand.
What wonder if it all the world o’erthrow? —
The bandit Viol’s armed with shaft and bow.
Amid the feast to call me into mind
The Flute a thread doth round its finger bind.
Where bides one like the Ghittern sweet of say,
The chosen, the elect of the array?

Since joy of soul doth from their voices tide,
Withouten music let no party bide.

In the Garden

Fitnat Hanim
Turkish
1725 – 1780

 

In the garden, the roses were all bewildered as they watched your cheek
Jealous of your lovelocks the hyacinths were all distraught

We deserved one attractive glance, but alas, what to do
Our bosom is constantly the target of eyelash-arrows

Oh you with rosebud lip, I imagined your crimson cheek
And it became the envy of every rose in the dwelling of my memory

You give savor to the party, oh lovely mine of salt,
For the cup of wine is but a salt-bowl reflecting your ruby lip

Oh Fitnat, when that sweet mouth begins to speak alluringly,
Blessed by abundant speech the world all becomes a field of sugarcane

Those Who Painted My Portrait

Nef’î
Turkish
1572 – 1635

 

Those who painted my portrait painted me
With cup in hand
When they saw I was drunk on the wine of love,
They drew me as a drunkard

If the zâhid were wise, he wouldn’t ask me
to give up pleasure
What a shame! They have portrayed me as crazy,
and him as sane!

What you see in the eye of the lover
in not the shadow of her eyelash
They have drawn the darkness of her cheek-down
onto the white of the weeping eye

I am that lover whose fame in humility
has taken the entire city
Those who wrote the story of Mejnûn
have written it in vain!

Oh Nef’î, from the way you speak we see
Yyur heart is burning
When they write your verse, their pens
shall burst in flame!