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.

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.

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.

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?