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HIKMET, Nazim


Baku at Night

Reaching down to the starless heavy sea

in the pitch-black night,

Baku is a sunny wheatfield.

High above on a hill,

grains of light hit my face by the handfuls,

and the music in the air flows like the Bosporus.

High above on a hill,

my heart goes out like a raft

into the endless absence,

beyond memory

down to the starless heavy sea

in the pitch dark.


Optimistic Man

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


I Come and Stand at Every Door

I come and stand at every door

But no one hears my silent tread

I knock and yet remain unseen

For I am dead, for I am dead.

I´m only seven although I died

In Hiroshima long ago

I´m seven now as I was then

When children die they do not grow.

My hair was scorched by swirling flame

My eyes grew dim, my eyes grew blind

Death came and turned my bones to dust

And that was scattered by the wind.

I need no fruit, I need no rice

I need no sweet, nor even bread

I ask for nothing for myself

For I am dead, for I am dead.

All that I ask is that for peace

You fight today, you fight today

So that the children of this world

May live and grow and laugh and play.



My Funeral

Will my funeral start in our courtyard below?
How will you bring my coffin down three floors?
The lift will not take it
and the stairs are too narrow.

Perhaps the courtyard will be knee-deep in sunlight and pigeons
perhaps there will be snow and children's cries mingling in the air
or the asphalt glistening with rain
and the dustbins littering the place as usual.

If in keeping with the custom here I am to go, face open to the skies,
on the hearse, a pigeon might drop something on my brow, for luck.
Whether a band turns up or no, children will come near me,
children like funerals.

Our kitchen window will stare after me as I go,
the washing on the balcony will wave to see me off.
I have been happier here than you can ever imagine,
friends, I wish you all a long and happy life.



On living

I

Living is no joke,

you must live with great seriousness

like a squirrel for example,

I mean expecting nothing except and beyond living,

I mean living must be your whole occupation.


You must take living seriously,

I mean to such an extent that,

for example your arms are tied from your back, your back is on the wall,

or in a laboratory with your white shirt, with your huge eye glasses,

you must be able to die for people,

even for people you have never seen,

although nobody forced you to do this,

although you know that

living is the most real, most beautiful thing.


I mean you must take living so seriously that,

even when you are seventy, you must plant olive trees,

not because you think they will be left to your children,

because you don't believe in death although you are afraid of it

because, I mean, life weighs heavier.


II

Suppose we're very sick, in need of surgery,

I mean, there is the possibility that

we will never get up from the white table.

although it is impossible not to feel the grief of passing away somewhat too soon

we will still laugh at the funny joke being told,

we will look out of the window to see if it's raining,

or we will wait impatiently

for the latest news from agencies.


Suppose, for something worth fighting for,

suppose we are on the battlefield.

Over there, in the first attack, on the first day

we may fall on the ground on our face.

We will know this with a somewhat strange grudge,

but we will still wonder like crazy

the result of the war that will possibly last for years.


Suppose we are in the jail,

age is close to fifty,

suppose there are still eighteen years until the iron door will open.

Still, we will live with the outer world,

with the people, animals, fights and winds

I mean, with the outer world beyond the walls.


I mean, however and wherever we are

we must live as if there is no death...

III

This earth will cool down,

a star among all the stars,

one of the tiniest,

I mean a grain of glitter in the blue velvet,

I mean this huge world of ours.

This earth will cool down one day,

not even like a pile of ice

or like a dead cloud,

it will roll like an empty walnut

in the pure endless darkness.

You must feel the pain of this now,

You must feel the grief right now.

You must love this world so much

to be able to say "I lived"...


Some Advice To Those Who Will Serve Time In Prison

If instead of being hanged by the neck
you're thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from the time you have left,
you won't say,
"Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag" --
You'll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it's your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.
Part of you may live alone inside,
like a tone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part
must be so caught up
in the flurry of the world
that you shiver there inside
when outside, at forty days' distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
and for spring nights,
and always remember
to eat every last piece of bread--
also, don't forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don't say it's no big thing:
it's like the snapping of a green branch
to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more --
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn't lose it's luster!


Today is Sunday

For the first time they took me out into the sun today.

And for the first time in my life I was aghast

that the sky is so far away

and so blue

and so vast

I stood there without a motion.

Then I sat on the ground with respectful devotion

leaning against the white wall.

Who cares about the waves with which I yearn to roll

Or about strife or freedom or my wife right now.

The soil, the sun and me...

I feel joyful and how.

Translated by Talat Sait Halman