I remember that he used to wear white boxers, and where
he used to scratch… And that is the only image I have retained of him.
His papers, scattered around the house, and indeed, his boxers.
Not quite a vacuum but a huge blank with stains:
he should have left something for me as a souvenir.
I chose this typewriter myself that day, 50s, A-keyboard,
keys hardly shift, some characters appear crooked.
But I imagined him young, typing his love poems,
his fingers trembling with emotion –
then I imagined he gave it to me as a gift, when I was older,
this typewriter, his very first treasure.
I put it in the place of honour, in my room,
the oil-lamp shining on it through a smart chimney.
And by recounting this story to everyone, time after time,
I began to believe that it was all true, what I had dreamed up!
In fact, to leave us behind he’d sold the whole kit and boodle,
and like a fearful sparrow pecking on discarded fruit,
I pulled this typewriter out
from a pile of his litter at our doorstep,
and hurried back into the house lest I should be called a thief.
My only wish: To leave.Sto Kato-Makria. Just a motorcycle. And suddenly thistles. Those mauve flames i omorphi . No brakes, no restraints in any way, kendimi özgür hissettiğim yerde. To make love, and each time it’s a first encounter. There, sea laurels and tulips of the fields kai ola ta louloudia. My feet abandon me like a yağmurkuşağı sanki bir tatlı-su-balığı in the water right after a rain-of-light. Just exchanging whispers with the seastones just çıplak ten. To leave. And right away. To set out on half-naked roads halfway. And what chair is that anyway to see that I stay put, all business + power. If lefta were millions it wouldn’t be worth spending ena lepto or even a single second. Being as how the home of living is a planet of blue in a shell-from-the sea. And again love runs through me like a poem that again has an urge to go. And the islands redolent of thyme the islands redolent of thyme... Oh, especially thyme – No, no, please accept my resignation Dear Money I cannot pay you what you ask for...
Because he was quickly growing old there, and was about to die from rising [while his soul, unable to bear the burden of a single poem, was crumbling.]
1 Sto Kato-Makria (Down Far-away, in Greek and Greek letters)
2 i omorphi (those beauties, in Greek and Greek letters)
3 “where I feel myself free” (originally in English, translated into Turkish)
4 kai ola ta louloudia (and all its flowers, in Greek and Greek letters)
5 “rainbow” (originally in English, translated into Turkish)
6 “like a freshwater-fish” (originally in English, translated into Turkish)
7 “naked flesh” (originally in English, translated into Turkish)
8 lefta (money, in Greek and Geek letters)
9 ena lepto (one minute, in Greek and Greek letters) (Translator’s note.)
CITIES WE RETURN TO
EVERYTHING IS JUST AS YOU LEFT IT... But you,
is it the same you, the one who left and the one who has found?
Your life wanders about for ten tens of years, but it’s at the same stop
that the trolleybus waits. The old telephone poles
that crack on the door window
and still, at the same hour, the lights are turned on by a shop boy.
But each time it’s different things that strike your eye
though the picture is the same: “How it has changed, this city”, you say
forgetting how much you yourself have changed.
THERE ARE FLOWERS THAT PRESERVE THEIR COLOUR
EVEN AFTER THEY DIE and remembrances sound
from a distance like seashells touched and left ashore.
Like under-wear buried at the bottom of the luggage
some things are repressed deep, deep inside us
hidden even from ourselves … and like a childhood long since gone
with a single scent they bounce right back to us: Lost-
Nicosia, Lost-Constantinople, Lost-Salonika…
Then the road appears again to those with no city left to their name
to those who when asked “have you come back?” find no answer, not a sob
not in any language… nothing comes out. Naught…
A seagull of light flies, a fisherman’s boat, quickly receding into the distance
are the motorcycle-riding mermaids. And evening comes and wine.
But I… I RETURN TO THE SAME PLACES AGAIN, AND AGAIN
waiting for the same things to happen
so as to make a few corrections in experiences past.
That I may enjoy more of myself perhaps
and that my life-line, that cataclysmic path,
might also clear, reaching toward me —
But how difficult it is to meet one’s own destiny
to recognize in time all the right signs
so as to find one’s true belongings, like a city
to which one must return.
LIKE AN ACTOR WAITING FOR HIS PART
First the acting lessons, the rehearsals
all that hustle and bustle on the way
those to-and-fros until you get used to the costumes…
Afterwards you’re called up in front of the mirror
The make-up takes hours and hours...
And now, waiting for your turn backstage
over and over you repeat to yourself your lines
thinking how long you’ve waited for this moment:
– So that was it, all I was to do in life,
a three-minute play for a lifetime’s strife.
They broke into the house, the burglars
they wrenched open the solid lock of the leather suitcase…
we were hiding the mother-scent inside
to inhale furtively from time to time.
But they wrecked it –
mother’s pleated skirt, her lilac-tinted scarf, her twin set,
her gloves, her hand mirror,
her butterfly-eyeglasses, her apron with frills,
the dress she herself made, violets all over it,
her tartan skirt and jacket, her slippers,
her little silk handkerchief
the folding tourist map of Lebanon,
her exercise books, her fountain pen,
and her letters from friends –
dirt and dust, d u s t a n d d i r t . . .
Who cares what, which military quarters
the requisitioned House may be,
the calamity of war goes on and on,
once again there is a raid, again door locks are shattered,
and a life to be lived becomes looted.
And looted, too, becomes a life already dead.
They keep a List of Missing Belongings
once again in our House we insured in vain…
The insurance can never cover the scattered
photographs kept in an album of gazelle hide.
Nor was it registered as a ‘valuable item’.
THE LIST OF MISSING BELONGINGS
Missing from the bed-room:
Not counting the fern, violet, tuberose and other flowers on the inner windowsill,
6 pairs seersucker sheets
,, ,, silk sheets
4 embroidered linen sheets (with 1 pair needlepoint, lace-trimmed pillowslips)
2 bolts loomed coarse cloth measured by the ell
and 5-6 ells linen, poplin and flannelette and woollen cloth measured by the ell
3 heirloom hand-printed cotton cloths (for making prayer rugs)
and tamboured wrapping cloths (unused)
2 sets purple and burgundy terry cloth (had never been used) and 1 bathrobe
,, ,, wipers and 6 pairs Bursa towels
and 1 pink gauze mosquito net (embroidered)
lace made by three generations of women in the family (partly used)
6 old-time handkerchiefs with silk lace edging
2 of my embroidered, unsewn nightgowns
and 1 dozen items silk underwear, 1 robe-de-chambre
1 dressing gown from olden days embroidered with silver thread (priceless)
and a matchless wedding gown belonging to granny (from the 1850s)
(velvet with golden embroidery, and lace-trimmed petticoat)
1 dress of astrakhan wool, 1 blouse of Scottish wool and its pleated skirt
2 embroidered Georgette head scarves (Beirut style).
And not counting such songbirds as the sparrow, whitethroat etc.
that perched on the window sill,
1 silk blanket, 3 woollen blankets, large and small
4 hand-printed cotton quilts (only recently covered)
,, small round cushions (with their spider-patterned slips)
1 pair of fancy high-heeled red shoes (barely used)
in addition, my evening dresses, perfumes, Pond facial day cream, scarves,
and other feminine items
1 hand mirror
The jewellery I left on the bedstand when I fled at night is all gone:
1 pair of twisted gold bracelets
1 ornate silver bracelet and its pin (very special gift)
and my divers breastpins (ivory, embellished with an African magnet-stone, etc.)
1 heirloom orange agate ring, 2 gold amulets
,, English necklace strung with fine pearls.
We cannot leave out our Tabby cat who came in and out of the bedroom through the window,
and 2 medium-sized flags (one Cypriot, the other Turkish)
14 ready-to-wear shirts (cotton, woollen, satin, silk, linen)
4 ells cashmere (for making pants, beige, to use when the kid grows up)
6-7 small monogrammed hankies (the kid’s)
and a large number of toys (partly used)
the kid’s panda teddy bear (old, but it was his dearest)
And manuscript Ottoman Turkish books passed down by grandfather (priceless)
1 Holy Bible and a World Atlas (The Times)
divers books (Turkish, English) and children’s fairy-tales
1 ream writing paper
,, batch envelopes
1 fountain pen (keepsake from my teaching years at the Shakespeare Primary School)
and other such pens, my little calling card envelopes
Not counting the spring landscape I painted while in high school and which hung on the wall,
1 old-time wall clock
3 fringed gauze curtains that I had embroidered with coloured silk thread
(the first piece I had done for my trousseau)
and in addition 5 bolts drapery
1 large Turkish carpet, 2 small rugs
1 complete set Lefkara lace
,, ,, ,, needlework
1 Apollo (stone statue, from Rhodes, 1954)
,, kerosene stove
1 box inlaid with mother-of-pearl (containing promissory notes, a pass book, certificates,
my personal letters, photographs and other such documents)
1 set shoehorn and coat-brush with handle
1 camera (unused)
and all the other as yet unopened New Year’s presents
,, ,, our ants, moths and other winged insects that we couldn’t count…
Other damage in the bed-room:
(First they set the bed-room on fire) from the wooden flooring,
to the crystal chandelier on the ceiling everything was burned
the legs of the chaise longue were broken, and partly burned
the fabrics, clothes and other items they couldn’t loot were burned
my walnut bed and wardrobe were largely burned
and the mirrors inside the wardrobe were all broken,
the glass covering the photos on the walls was broken, as were the frames
the kid’s photo was torn up because it hadn’t burned
That torn child is me, in the Missing List
searching still for his name, so as to reunite with himself.
And I thank you a 1000 times my Good Lord:
Luckily I was lost, luckily I am not a single person and in a single little home…
* Taken and rearranged from the ‘Ledger of Lost and Damaged Goods’ dated January 10-20, 1964, which my mother Ayşe Süleyman (İpçizâde) had kept when her house was plundered and burned during the Bloody Christmas of 1963.
A step child is a must in any family with many children
in yours no doubt it was you.
One of your full siblings is a girl, the other a boy
and you in the middle… To stop the untamed butterfly
from flying off or something
you were a boarder, far off
not so, in your very own room. Your bicycle was stolen, so
you’re sent to school on foot –
From the automobile your siblings watch you, like the photograph of two crying kids
clinging to the rearwindow
so that you don’t accidentally forget you’re punished
and should a smile spread across your face as you walk alone.
The chance to bemoan your state as if a victim was a favour
granted by your parents, who loved to seek pity like martyrs
You should have been the Abel of the tribe later on
an undecreed-fate where you’d be seized and exiled
was granted you even then so that you could build your career as a victim,
you never knew its worth… “See” say your parents
peeping through their eyeglasses, like rearview mirrors:
“Who would have taken you outdoors if it weren’t for us!”
You were like a guest with whom a distance should be preserved
in the Yashin’s home, but they greeted you warmly
with such intimacy that it was almost rude –
You felt the breath of the family on the nape of your neck as they,
in their automobile, kept driving a w a y
l u c k i l y y o u , o f f y o u f l e w , f l u t t e r f l u t t e r through
a gap no wider than the butterflywindow.
THIEF OF SOULS
Solomon’s knot: I bone, frit, molded pâte de verre
leaf upon leaf of madder lake and sundial. [Reprise]
Stepfather, stepsibling and who knows how many step-
lovers have stolen you. For the thief of souls
lies within one’s own-home. Full mothers can also be stepmothers
and husbands are mostly stephusbands.
The one who steels your soul the most is the one nearest you, actually it is you
who opens the door and eagerly lets him in.
It was to be expected, eyes, evil ones, were to be upon you
but rivals, imitators, enemies cannot be your thief of souls.
The thief of souls is the poet’s translator. He turns you into himself,
or else he turns his face away from you. He discovers your very essence
and seeps within you as if seizing you.
He becomes you, but only until he’s satisfied, you…
You’ll recognize the thief of souls by this:
He’ll say “I love you so much that I am you”. He’ll show his favour
and his lovemaking is avid. My soul, turn to stone.
Isn’t the world stone anyway? Fire, washed with water in the air?
My soul, stop at the dragon-guarded cave. Stay in the rocks.
My tongue, turn to stone. For everything is dying
the body in the rock tomb is rotting. Even the soul.
O CaroV1 Boatman of souls, I am carved in stone.
Though your sails fill with dead breaths, my soul is stone. [Reprise]
I am a sharply pointed broken piece of rock: Solomon’s-knot.
 Kharos: The Death Angel. (Translator’s note.)
IN THE WELL: The Evil Writing
“Your well is in bad shape” they said:
We held a mirror, no reflection, we threw a stone not a sssingle
hisss… (Sending down a diver would be pointless.) I’m all dried up inside,
snakes, all slippery and slimy, and worms of all sorts, and rubble.
Now I am in squalor
I’m in a stuffy and dark place
(perhaps a thousand layers lower than a normal grave)
I, I am a person who has been sacrificed to the dragon
by the very hands of the knight who has saved my life. Cover me! Cover me up,
for I am an evil corpse.
(I had seen so much evil done in the name of good that,
well, I have become evil myself.) Don’t read!
Please don’t read me,
for by constantly writing about evil I make you forget the good.
ALL DAY LONG
She took a bath and left…
You, you neither took a bath
nor did you get out of bed.
All day long you just lay there
hugging the pillow where she’d laid her head.
She slides to the foot of the bed and curls up facedown
as if she weren’t lying with you.
In the closed mirrored little music box
where a ballerina dances,
in the silk cocoon of the baby pink shoes she is sleeping
as if she weren’t sleeping… She’s pulled the sheet
altogether. You’re stripped. She’s covered.
And you can’t even open the mirrored music-box.
You get up and look into a Book of Dreams
so that you can solve the meaning of all this
in the bed where you lie all alone… As if there were someone else
who in their sleep had dreams that belong to you.
Then with harsh words you drive off the poetry-muse who came to kiss you on the [forehead…
You don’t really mind the flapping wings. In the twilight
it is the fragile sound of the nightingale you want.
You hear with the ears of another, all strewn about... Your body
is not yours. Your lips… your hands, your organs are unattainably distant.
Every part of you now belongs to her.
You are a malignant tumour growing in her breast
she, the gigantic leech that devours your crotch
and you are claws that are like wings sunk backward into her shoulders.
Passion reigns over you… You are obsessed,
like your own assassin, stabbed into the one that lies in your heart
you’ve driven between you like a knife the power to give.
The ultimate signs of love in the depths… Out of the circumciser’s bag come the razor,
the tongued-knife, the spiral fork, slippery condoms
and chains that slice at the wrist as it stirs. Inside a poem
the passion that has been lurking in ambush for so long has captured you both.
You cannot unravel from love.
You can’t put back on the clothes you removed as if ripping off the buttons.
The moment you are stark naked a satyr emerges out of you,
it emerges that you are of the creatures that were thought to be extinct… She saw your [secret.
She has no place to run! You strip her from herself too,
hoping a mythical foal will come out
with mule’s hooves, a long seashell horn and w h i t e w i n g s.
You don’t make love, but fight with love. Two creatures each with two horns
who knows where they’ve come from. You, you roll on the ground.
She kicks and flails her body,
like a cat trying to milk caresses from the earth and rocks. You bare your teeth
and mount the neck of the swallow. She wipes her blood-smeared beak on your mouth.
A mole trying to hide its prey deep inside the labyrinthine earth
tugging and hauling it. Holding onto her beach-blond feathered wings,
her scrawny elbows, you drag her. And with a rapacious axe
you slash your own body in two
and a crimson rose garden spurts out of your breast…
She becomes all the birds as she f l a p s h e r w i n g s
and you, the pack of wolves that piles upon the partridge.
As you bite you turn into a three-tongued dragon, a yellow snake, a flittermouse, a [shahmeran,
into the half-human creature that doesn’t recall the murder it committed in the half-night.
She, she incites you with her hand drawing you inside her and aiming a kick at the same [time
rolling her tongue in your contracted groin and biting
with teeth that keep growing in the full moon. You shed w h i t e screams
f e a t h e r b y f e a t h e r… This is not love! It’s a mortal clash
between two souls that desire to escape their bodies.
Everything should be poetry. To die for! There should be love, or you won’t play.
And life should be as strong as death. As if poetry and love
were one... You should become one with all.
A pendulum swings in the emptiness of existence,
hitting mountain peaks at times and the waves of the sea at others.
As the strength to hold your breath grows weak you should surface
so as to plunge back into the same game after inhaling once.
Fine but hey nobody’s obliged to give you the kiss of life.
So it’s your trouble and yours alone that you’re a strange player
with wind-like wings who can only survive between fire and water.
That’s what you say, though you want those you make yourself read to see
the poem you lay with cleft pomegranates ablaze at your feet
Yet the readers do dabble in the doodles of poetry
and they do plant a kiss on you for love of those fine details, occasionally.
You collect the kisslings
hoping they’ll turn into a long big one. [But nothing
comes of kissing.]
(With lights that turn from mauve to orange.) The Sun
was erasing the stars when rrrring the door… You opened it.
– I want to kiss you (Drunken voice.)
– Are you going to kiss me to wake yourself up?
What if this kiss costs you your life?
He was the empty wine-glass in broad daylight
waiting for you to fill him up, over and over, a trace of scarlet at the bottom.
He recited you a poem using your lips (dancing voice):
– Here’s to the dear companions, wherever they go I follow! Coo coo cooo...
– My life (he says in a fit of coughing) can be the price.
I’ve given up myself, and my life too.
There was so much that was left unsaid last night, and now it’s so late.
– Intimacy with words, you see, it’s all futility.
(As silence draws out let the reeds sound forth, rich in harmony). Hush
at the mention of water let a well of wine open up and sound spill out from the pipe.
– Whatever… I’ll lie down till evening
and we can pick up talking from where we left off tonight.
(Whereas it still went on since yesterday that night half-finished for both of them.)
The spongelike rock
which rolled down from the mountain
must be nice and soft, imagines the fish.
that have washed ashore;
heedless of their petrifaction,
the child lets them off into the waves
as if what’s been killed
by this-life, could live anew.
The salt imbibed on the rib of the boat
the purple smell of thyme
on the bosom of the marine rocks…
And amidst all this beauty
only in the loved one does Beauty become incarnate,
transforming into a legend
quite suitable for the art of poetry.
The fisherman who gave its title to the poem
is unaware of the beauty that’s his own.
Yet beauty too would like to be known
so as to reveal itself on the surface of the sea,
so that the soul may bear the body
and the body the soul.
Monargia village/Famagusta, 2005
Oh that its body could but speak half carved out of the rock in the waterfall
it cannot free itself from the stone it is stuck on.
Be it as beautiful as the statue of an ancient deity, a statue it is, after all. A narcissus flower,
its smell, form, colour... But in its hand no mirror.
It has no water, no bed to flow on, no door to open to...
Oh key, tiny key The water nymph is locked in on herself.
She’s called upon a locksmith from out of the waters
unknowing that she holds you in the palm of her hand.
And when the door is opened... there, a white... Empty space
where is left the statue of a deity. They’ve forbidden it to dance, to play the lyre,
to sing. Or to suddenly run about, or even to embrace.
It has lain there for centuries buried under the earth, its poetry
a gutted language. It is forbidden to speak. The way colours to a painter, and sounds a musician would be forbidden…
You gently draw near. You nuzzle up like a benign little vermin. Hisss…
Besides, what can a statue ask of you really? As beautiful as marble of ivory
but marble it is, in the end,
though you make love repeatedly you can never unite with this body.
You touch it with increasing fervour to tame its coldness. Either its flesh
will come alive or yours too will turn to stone. You look, one last time,
but there’s nothing more beautiful to cling to.
You cherish his feet. Its curved sole.
Its ankle so strong it won’t hurt one bit
when stepping on the earth... After all, mermaids can’t show
the pain they feel each time they step on land.
She tilts her head with her will-o’-the-wispy hair and looks with awe
at her feet from your eyes. This and that way
turn about the words spoken in reverse
in hula-hooping curves… You cherish
the trim of the nacre shadow of her toenails. Her slender legs
that broaden slightly and rise up to her calves…
Reminiscent here and there of the wing of a white bird with yellow feathers
her toes excite you as if they might fly off any moment now.
Yet they do not fly. She steps on the ground upright and straight. Almost rigid.
And she goes off without a falter… Drawing a curve
toward you, while growing distant on the sand –
You cherish the way he hides his foot’s-heel from you.
Aya Irini village/Kormaditi, 2005
The laurels scratch you as you come out of the sea.
–All you can think of is that she will catch cold with her wet bathing suit
you even feel her trembling hips, though you can’t see
the scratches left by sharp branches…–
You hand her your towel for her to dry herself,
when she gives it back to you, you say “No need, keep it
or I’ll feel sad when I remember this moment,
whereas you can both remember me and not feel sad.”
Then she goes to the shower and washes the beach-towel
and gives it to you all cleaned up
leaving no trace of the smell of the sea or the bay leaves.
–But the next day it rasps your skin
that beach-towel which the rough salt has stiffened like sandpaper.–
Aya Irini village/Kormadti, 2005
They’ve set a trap for you. A rather tall person, somewhat like the sun
shadowy though. I’m confused, he says
my life is a mess. Whereas its in the world beyond
that your conversion belongs.
It is the infinite confusion of the body and the soul. A battlefield,
pell-mell. Piercing shrieks. You are mum
it will cause you real agony. No exit in sight.
Your stars are crossed. This person will have no rest till he vanquishes you,
even then he must also vanquish himself.
But he doesn’t know he is combating you. He holds a sceptre in his hand.
There’s the letter “A”, and omega too. You go through a door,
something like a monastery entrance, the priests are reciting the salah*.
Tell me your dates of birth and death. Three candles on each wing.
The cock is out, it doesn’t crow, and neither can it fly.
In court he defends his client who has done wrong,
you are tried, he has your proxy.
This is a kingdom that continues to fight as its army is routed.
You were the one to crown him. You bow to his firman. A spear
is hurled by him, you don’t dodge, look… He is your king.
* Salah: The Muslim prayer recited after the dead (Translator’s note.)
** Firman: An Ottoman imperial edict or decree (Translator’s note.)
He checks his watch with every sip from his drink, he explains
to the phone in his inside pocket. Pardon me, but let’s talk straight
though we sit awry, we’re at a tavern table.
I once saw quails on offer in a desert market
they were perched on the counter, as if singed and ready to cook.
There were rings and such on their legs.
No, they’re free… Can’t you see, they don’t fly off mate!
Fly fly fly I flap my wings, nope, they don’t fly.
The chap who assessed the situation right in the middle of making love
checked his watch again, loosened his tie a bit
then folded his wings and neatly put them in his briefcase.
I must go home early again. Ok, tomorrow evening then?.. Don’t think so.
I don’t think so either, and why spend money on a cage
I saw it with my own eyes I tell you, they don’t fly, the quails.
Why did I feel sad then, you say.
Perched on the edge of a chair at a flowing and ebbing shorefront café,
and unable to find a place to park your backpack, you listen
to those words of yearning,
which she spoke as she averted her gaze... [It’s a game,
when she flees you catch her, when she catches you flee.
The light is stuck in the hardened crystal.
Everything can be laughed off now.
Impossible to go with someone who has so grieved you,
then you can go now it won’t make a difference anymore.]
Alright, you say, but how can I give up my Sorrow,
suddenly say, let’s split up having lived together
so long, just because you’re back...
I’ll have to feel sad some day in any case
a shame if my sorrow instalments went to waste.
I’m a hedgehog, you said haughtily.
(What could you have done, you had to put on airs of haughtiness
to be paid some attention.)
I’m a hedgehog, you said once again
sternly bucking as if you were threatening.
Translucent and so soft, as if made of water
your body opened up
suddenly. As for him, his hair was all spiked up.
It was night. And you were by yourselves
there where the devil dares to shave himself.
I can cause accidents in your life
even if you don’t tread on me unshod but with a car,
is what you tried to say, I think.
(Oh I dunno, maybe it was something else
you were really saying.)
I’m a hedgehog, you said for the third time.
Strange, he murmured, that you should want to draw me to you
by repeatedly saying you’re dangerous,
oh you blind fool… said you and right then
you blinded yourself!
So you’re looking for a friend, then come
play blindman’s buff with me.
There you lie against the world, like a distant dirty piece of ice
in the hollow where you’re trapped. Your knees are drawn up to your chest
trembling as if wishing never to have been born. And not feeling
the pain caused by the rock-shoes either…
You rub your fingers together, trying to revive the stiffened life
inside. Nothing can be stronger than your solitude.
In the shadow of the hollow like a womb that before bearing you died, cold
are the blows blown by the wind, which does not let you forget your solitude, not one [minute.
A little further on, the sunbeams… The impossible
avalanche would fall were you to motion toward life. Your body is glacier stone
to you it does not belong. And you are doubtful you’re alive.
Belay stations on the mountain you are climbing, none. Were you to fall, none,
no escape. All a-whistle o’er your head are the sharp stones …
Your rock-shoes would not withstand the ice, nor your helmet the stone. Your heart, [frozen,
almost. Nothing can be stronger than your solitude.
The mountain is cramping you by the instant. It is drawing you in like a foetus.
Climbing the chimney in front of you with that huge backpack, it’s impossible.
You emptied your life for a light and rapid climb;
what a shame… While leading the climb
the others went on not paying heed to the rocks that rolled on your head. And the rope
is swinging. Your feet are swinging… The minute you grab hold you roll down
into the abyss bumping along as the rope stretches out and back. You’ve become stone,
a stone of cloud that has lost its balance. Your breath is foggy
foggy stone. Nothing can be stronger than your solitude.
The mountain is stronger. You are stronger than the mountain. As rigid
as solitude… Soon night will fall and crushing you the stars will all
proceed. Your heart is shivering, and I am shivering too.
For from the mountain I cannot rescue you, I cannot be stronger than your solitude.
Kantara mountain-Nicosia, 2005
(You didn’t write this, someone must have written it, by mistake
they got mingled in your verses, these words that belong elsewhere…)
The child playing hide-and-seek
appeared and disappeared. He must have hidden really well, you couldn’t find him.
You didn’t think of looking into yourself.
The child sees you, no need for him to look. In his sleep,
the book was left open at the page he was reading so the dream slipped into it.
You’re on the sinister mountain. Out there, a lake,
but you can’t reach it however much you walk. Always the same place: A dream.
What you were looking for, you can’t remember. You keep wandering
as if looking for something
in the dream-room…
The rind of the full moon peeled off and the moonlight broke up in seven pieces
that were scattered all about. Flakelets of snow spread a blanket on the steep forest.
And the dreamfairy, twisting the corner of the cover
whispered the name of the dream you would wish to have. You fell asleep
in your sleep. All you remember is the sound ‘S’. Curled up
you try to tell your body from hers.
You see the door, but how does one open it and go through?
The letter ‘S’ is in bed. (A twin body
its upper right and its lower left disjunct.) You whistle to each other.
Your legs, your neck, you stretch, slackening, as they rub
against you. You wonder what part of you this bloody ‘S’ comes from…
You sneaked among the reeds, where she could lead you without much fuss
that barren, boggy corner… There, you started rummaging everywhere,
what you’ve found, you can’t see. Strangely
smiles at you the self in the dream.
(It’s the rictus on the face of the dead, you’re not going to like this.)
If you wake up, a feeling of emptiness.
For one thing, you don’t have a bed in which to wake up together.
Nights, but a three-inch space, on the verge of falling,
there’s not enough room to comfortably turn, back into the dream,
to stretch out at will…
There’s no one you’d like to run into. So, sleep is your country,
fairies and goblins, their magic lies in a den, their hideout,
the pearl is inside the oyster,
eenie meenie miney moe, the world is nowhere to be found.
You last remember how kissing left you breathless
and the moment you felt your heartbeat on her breast.
The sea set sail from navy blue to nacre
and diving toward the depths it all grew transparent.
Then the moon rose. The waters became incarnate
in their own mirror. In the gateway of the sky where the stars drove nail holes
a vague gleam… But the brass latch of the sun is locked
Look, nothing shows clearly by the light of day.
You can’t get anywhere by walking.
You closed the book. When the Orange Bird spread out its wings
you found yourself in it. Well then, it was supposed to be in you, the universe
within a migrant bird… Meanwhile autumn,
straining to turn the leaves green again
the rain d r i p d r i p d r i p into emptiness.
They watch you, the giant-maidens undoing their golden buttons
even though the trees are unstirring, they follow you hand in hand,
as you hurry on so do they
your spectres. That which is closer than any person
just as the unreality of dreams is the realest thing of all.
You know how someone who dreams he is a bird
when he wakes up is unsure whether he’s a bird or not?
Ask whom he might he can’t know the truth. And the Gods
fill all that has vanished with their being,
just like the loved one is obliterated within the feeling of love. And as the soul,
giddy on love, m i n g l e s w i t h t h e l i g h t…
The light is dimmer on this side of the mountain. It seeps through the purple
clouds… The stone house below
is where I was born. Two rooms inside connect through wide arches… The olive grove,
trees planted somewhat apart so they don’t touch, how strange
it suddenly ends at the slope.
There’s a growing feeling in this deserted land that reminds me of my childhood
an urge to run… On and on
I just stand there though, as if running in the dimness of the mountain
it’s my heart. I think it’s my childhood
that’s running. It’s five weeks that I’ve been here it’s the first time
I’ve spoken of myself to someone.
A village on the border. And the ruins are guarded by soldiers
who don’t speak… Photographs,
don’t let them see me taking them like a tourist in my hometown how strange.
I don’t do anything here. Come sunset
the fields catch fire and then die down.
Way over there a brook serpentines toward the reeds… Under the noon sun
the days become orange light-birds streaming down the mountain.
The earth is white but, well it’s nice and firm
for the vineyard that is… And here I’ve also learned to wake up before the roosters.
Stay this evening, let’s walk toward the morning camera in hand…
(But sunrise was such a short moment that we couldn’t take its photograph.)
He does the frivolous things that a very solitary person would do:
He drinks wine at the foot of the stairs, going up and down
as if there was no one in the crowd
besides himself. Whoever comes, let it be perforce, in his wake.
And they can apologize in Italian afterwards.
He leafs through other people’s photo albums
black gloves on his hands. He looks for a companion
on the loners’ site of the internet,
a stranger he can put up, just for a few nights, in the room at the back,
you know, where the shakedown is raised against the wall.
Bit by bit life turns into a story
with no interior monologues. And for his vague imaginary
lovers he sends attachments to his own sweetheart
When you read these, “So then” you said
“It seems I didn’t exist for your.” (You said it in Italian.)
– Not at all, you are so enormously there
that this burden has to be lightened.
IN THE POOL
So it seems this is where everybody was!
Above the full moon submerged in the pool,
as if she has long since been mixed up
with the same waters. With the familiarity of
drawing under the same lines... Even in the moonlight
this is soothing.
You don’t have to explain anything to anyone,
nor row among the waves,
for the love of seas of doubtful friendship
which you’ll first set out on… Even in the moonlight
this is saddening.
So it seems there are those who are in the pool,
and those outside.
And it seems this little puddle
is all you’ll ever swim in… By the pool, bleeding heart
Up there a starry starry starry starry
infinity… You dive
for a breath of fresh air in that pool
where you feel all choked up.
He confessed his crime in writing,
without realising what he was doing.
Here it is, the proof:
what you are reading just now.
Eye to eye, hand in hand…
The murder was committed
wearing these gloves.
On a cold night he struck
All the keys of the computer,
Struck again and again.
Then they were washed and cleaned.
The gloves, like the poet’s severed hands
dangling on the clothes line –
Severed by himself.
These translations were made by Linda Stark from the poems published in the following books:
Mehmet Yashin (Yaşın), To Repair a Daydream/Hayal Tamiri (1998, Istanbul: Adam; 2007, Istanbul: Everest)
Mehmet Yashin (Yaşın), Its Name is in the List of Missing Belongings /Adı Kayıplar Listesinde (2002, Istanbul: YKY; 2007, Istanbul: Everest)
Mehmet Yashin (Yaşın), Orange Bird/Turuncu Kuş (2007, Istanbul: Everest)
Copyrights of these poems belong to Mehmet Yashin and Linda Stark, and they are used by Arun Omer in this blog with their permissions.
These poems were not included in Mehmet Yashin's poetry books in English which are:
Mehmet Yashin, Don't Go Back to Kyrenia (translated by Taner Baybars and edited by Peter Bush, 2001, London: Middlesex University Press World Literature Series) www.middlesexuniversitypress.com
Mehmet Yashin, Wartime (translated by Taner Baybars, 2007, Essex: The Hapy Dragons' Press) http://www.happydragonspress.co.uk/
Please see http://www.mehmetyashin.com/ for further information on Mehmet Yashin and his publications.