NEW TURKISH POETRY

DEATH THINKS THE STARS AT NIGHT ARE SCABBED OVER WOUNDS
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Gokçenur C.
Translated by Kurt Heinzelman with Deniz Perin (and the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature)
Death runs a shop in the Grand Bazaar on Fesçiler Street
Death thinks using foreign words from time to time very cool
Death tries to hide the existence of stripeless zebras from everyone else
Death bets with Time on Fantasy Football
Death whispers the meaning of beauty into a horse's ear
Death is scared to death because he doesn't know his real name
Death is gray-eyed but does not remember he was blue-eyed once
Death talks to the birds, his only friends, whom he doesn't understand
Death likes the little whore in the Jardin des Plantes more than the one in the Tuileries
Death dreams of cashing in his term life and retiring on Social Security
Death learns something, yellow firefly that he is, from everyone he touches
Death does not relish the idea of settling down in the country
Death says to his neighbor, I saw your father, he sends his love
Death keeps a diary, one without dates
Death donates overcoats of forgetfulness to the relatives of the dead
Death can't sleep if he doesn't drink every night, he prefers bourbon to scotch
Death is a creature of habit and brushes his teeth with salt
Death takes out a consumer loan to pay off credit-card debt
Death works at a job he doesn't like
Death collects picture postcards of Corfe Castle
Death mistakes the stars for scabs
Death is angry with god but faithfully recites 3 kulluvallah and 1 fatiha before sleeping
Death underlines his favorite passages
Death gets angriest when people ask "why me?"
Death is no longer ashamed to cry
Death lives among us and is just getting by, just like us


Impossibility of Utterance
Translated by Mel Kenne and Cemal Demircioglu (and the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature)
two facing windows left open for circulation
on my sweaty belly The Short Summer of Anarchy
like a redbud's crumpled branch you lie beside me
so beautiful, so broken, so like Istanbul

as the curtains lift on the wind
the bird that just flew in
sails out through the other window

what can't be held in mind - a moment's pure beauty
it lengthens in language, as it lengthens dims
happiness and the void it leaves behind
miracle's need of a beholder
ah! impossible to express

the burden of being sole witness
to the moment that will never return


THRASHING FOR LIFE
Translated by Kurt Heinzelman with Selhan Endres (and the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature)

I thought you a rusted tackle box, a smart apartment house in Old Town,
Its front door open, under the staircase, redolent of lavender, we kissed.

I thought you a lead weight, a sinker, snagged on the rocks,
A gardener, I held to the sun a rose, a broken mirror.

I thought you a spinner, a jig nothing could ever snag,
Sleep, a pair of socks, what I couldn't write, what I could.

I thought you a fishing line, tangled, snapped in 4 places, retied in 5,
Witness to a divorce, I was on my way to the hearing.

I thought you a float, a red cork, not can openers, tea kettles,
Umbrellas, familiar things, things I thought of as friends.

I thought you a lure, well-feathered, smiling at something you'd read,
Your smile: a whiteness concealing its hook as a cloud.

Where the line dips taut and unseen: me, thrashing.

 



NOTHING SPEAKS IN NATURE
Translated by Deniz Perin (and the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature)
I keep quiet, so you can find me
if you follow the footprints of silence
if you can't, you'll still find the meaning
surely a person finds a meaning in everything

I keep quiet, clouds gather to see your hair
the stream slows in front of the pier where your feet dangle in the water
we had some good days too
together we watched nutshells smolder

(I keep quiet, for nothing speaks in nature
a stone doesn't suspect it must be stone-like, neither does a tree,
birds are different, they hear their own voices, because the island's sky is a shed
for the shoeless horses of night, and is no different than the sea's sky, only people,
who can't face their misgivings, talk, endlessly talk)

I keep quiet, the island's crows recite
Yannis Ritsos' poems about habits
I must write twelve letters saying I miss you:
hold them to your chest as you would a frozen tulip bulb, remember

(I keep quiet, for nothing speaks in nature
the storm's grasses love the wind without understanding it
-it murmurs in a pure language-
the bee racing with the stream doesn't seek to understand life, rain
has the same language as water-
what I'm trying to say is, while on one hand we try to speak with nature
whose serenity we emulate,
on the other hand, believing nature replies,
we project our own restlessness onto nature)

I keep quiet, it's meaningless
my going without leaving so much as a note,
leaving my manuscript on your pillow,
but you will find a meaning in this too
because a person finds a meaning in everything
the instant she hears herself speak


Flour Soup, Cherry Raki, a Pinch of Time
Translated by Mel Kenne and Suat Karantay (and the Cunda International Workshop for Translators of Turkish Literature)
I'm all right here
under eucalyptus leaves, banana trees
amidst splitting pomegranates, here
we lunch on noon at night
drink oleander raki, chew the fat with fishermen
coming home from cutting cane, they say this river
can see why all things contain the essence of rain
these rivers, say I, stressing each syllable, these rivers!
the locals don't know there are twin rivers flowing by, sharing one bed:
parallel to the sun, that look from a distance like two snakes mating

I'm just fine here,
here, in this viceroyalty of mosquitoes
they've given me a room with a view of the river
flour soup, cherry raki, a pinch of time
"humans", I told the doctor, didn't think in words in the old days,
while in the sky the sun stood like a stripped fishbone,
the endless possibility of thinking in images got to be too much
for them, that's why they conceived a limited lexicon
the doctor, jotting down notes, points out that when I say "humans"
I exclude myself, the doctor
doesn't believe that time has the essence of rain

like an eel Time slides through our separation,
here we whitewash trees, patch up the pier,
we toil over the tongues of shadows lengthening and shortening
yesterday we ran into a couple of beekeepers coming home
from a fire lookout, they said this forest
may be its own best explanation for being
I said these forests, these forests!
the locals aren't aware that inside the forest rises another forest:
another forest that, seen from afar, appears as rain

I'm doing okay here,
days I stare out at the mountain, nights I secretly write
they say writing plunges one more deeply into isolation
I think not


BALCONY OF THE TOWER
Translated by Alexandra Buchler with Gökçenur Çelebioglu

"I'm not afraid of the dead", the man said,"Nothingness,
the locust leaping onto the flesh of the summer, sudden rain,
the red-ant circus in the shadow of a stone.
Absence of words makes me far more afraid.
So I write. Endlessly I write. I write the same way I build this tower
in the place of the old well. That damned well
into which my father fell and broke his neck."

(It was winter. A train was passing across the lowlands like a
snow-white gauze inside a sooty oil-lamp bottle. Soldiers brought
to the front were hanging out of the wagon windows waving
their helmets at the herd of wild horses racing alongside the train.
Children chopping wood in the courtyard. A provisions lorry
sunk into snow and boredom in the voice of the woman
embracing the man on the balcony of the tower, saying "You must go".
I mean, the usual evens of winter.)


The next day the man fell from the tower and broke his neck.
The woman repeatedly knocked on the tower door at the usual time,
a lantern in one hand, umbrella in the other
the manuscript of the man's poems which she could not keep dry
between her teeth.

Behind the wind fear was hiding, sniffing at the woman.

 

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