April 5, 2006
POEMS (Translated by Nilűfer Mizanoğlu Reddy)
Gűlten Akin was born in the central Anatolian town of Yozgat in 1933. She graduated from the Ankara School of Law in 1955. She worked as a lawyer and teacher and lived in different regions of Turkey with her husband who had an administrative job. Her poetry is influenced by folklore and folk poetry of Turkey. She combines this source of inspiration with a thoroughly modern sensibility that deals with themes of nature, love, a feeling for history and social injustices. She has been active in defense of human rights and social justice. Her books: The Hour of the Wind (1956) I Cut my Black Tresses (1960) In Lower Depths (1964). Turkish Language Society award Red Carnation (1971) The Epic of Maraş and Őkkeş (1972). Turkish Radio-TV award Hymns and Folksongs (1976). Yeditepe Poetry Prize, 1977 The Epic of Wanderings (1979) Hymns and Essays in Poetry (1983) 42 Days (1986). Prose poems Love is Undying (1991). Sedat Simavi Literature Award, 1992 And Then I Got Older (1995) Silent Backyards (1998) At a Distant Shore (2003)
Hymn for the Troubled Poet Hymn for Iron and Rust Song for an Ageless Woman The Geranium Autumn Winter Spring Summer
HYMN FOR THE TROUBLED POET
Though I am smaller than a grain I can contain the whole world! But the world is too small for me, Too small, too small, my son. I can become a cloud, I can fly to the sky, I can wander through the meadows, But I cannot pour like rain, my son. My hawk is tied in chains, A carnation in its beak. This cruel conflict, I cannot, cannot resolve, my son. I am a poet, my toil is tough Hard times bind me in my plight. I put away my tireless pen, I cannot, cannot write, my son.
HYMN FOR IRON AND RUST
Between narcissus and autumn roses For five long years Between rain and snow For five long years Between cold and frost Between iron and rust From Seyran to Mamak For five long years I came to know the sound of iron The pressing hand the pushing shoulder The opening of the padlock the grating of the door The cruel sound of iron For five long years If someone had planted a willow tree, Its shadow would have darkened the house. He was my weeping willow I brought him up, I ache for him deep in my heart. For five long years. Your voice is tired, you are wary, Words especially chosen for us, Words dried on the clothesline, Are the only ones we talk with – If you can call that talking. No inflection, no color, not a syllable of warmth: “How are you?” “I am fine.” For five long years, I could not call you: My brave, my one and only, pillar of my house. I kept it secret, lest they hear, I didn’t want that. Now I feel that my voice has grown old. There will surely come a day, I keep shining it. I know, The bird in my broken heart will not be silent.
SONG FOR AN AGELESS WOMAN
Your face was never a rough sketch It had the lines of a finished painting Your face drawn by your own hand Lovingly, fearfully, hastily You wove the satin cloth and cut the serge You were both the cutter and the stitcher Of school uniforms and prison garb One was too loose, the other too tight For the body of the people What you’ve lost in blessings for many a day You’ve gathered in curses in an exalted life Perhaps you’ve taken leave of your body now But when everything is in uproar Even lifeless objects stir Rising from the days of stifling silence You’ll be the one to gather again The much needed things With your womanly motherly fertile hands We made a pillow for your silvery head From rose petals brought from the mountains Take a rest now.
Let us remember the rule: No one can stop the rain, No one can block the sun For the planters of seeds and saplings. I am planting basil and geranium. My neighbor says they’re hardy, Even if you don’t want them, They take root and keep growing in your garden. My God, how wonderful, wonderful, I am planting basil and geranium In love with the hardiness of grass and flowers. What is hardiness? It is hope and resistance It is to plunge into the bosom of life It is to be one with life Believe me, friends, believe me A geranium shoot separated from the plant Does not die at all, does not even droop It keeps blooming in the earth where I planted it. Sardunya Yasadır ansıtalım: Tohum ekenlerin, fide dikenlerin Kimse durduramaz yağmurunu Güneşini kimse kesemez Fesleğen ekiyorum, sardunya dikiyorum Arsızmış, öyle diyor komşum Artık siz istemeseniz de Açar tohumunu, yayılır toprağınızda Ne güzel ne güzel ne güzel tanrım Fesleğen ekiyor, sardunya dikiyorum Bitiyorum arsızlığına çimenin çiçeğin Arsızlık bugünden geri Umut ve direnç demektir Sokulmak demektir yaşamın koynuna Özdeşlik demektir yaşamla İnan olsun dostlar, inan olsun Dalından kopan sardunya Bozulmadı bikez, eğmedi başını Açmayı sürdürdü diktiğim toprakta
Autumn is here I am bleary-eyed and blind. Autumn is here I know my hair is falling out. They say I was born in the highland beyond the seas. I feel its ups and downs in my knees. The gazelle descended into the streams, my beloved. The fight is over. Hang your rifle on the wall. The kingdom of the hearth has arrived. Take your hatchet From the corner, go to the forest. Kiss our children. Those down below raise their kites into the sky – The weather is right – Down there children can read, but I am blind. Their books and newspapers smell good. I should come down to smell and feel them. Ah, my beloved, I am tied down here, Blind and old at the age of thirty. Take the children and go down, I want them to see everything. Autumn is here, my beloved, you’re free to go, But I am blind, I’ve never gone beyond the stream. I remember how we slaved all summer long, But the potatoes couldn’t even buy a piece of cloth. Go and ask: Are we counted as human, are we in the census book? I am blind, we’re old, but have the children registered. Take the potatoes to the buyer for twenty-five kuruş, On the way back sing a thousand songs to the donkey. For the things of this world one must have the world’s money. You eked out a pitiful twenty-five liras from the land. Buy our shroud, don’t forget the soap and the scrubber, Reserve a bit of paradise with the money for the Hoja. I’ll die this autumn, I’ve finished all my chores. I’ve washed in the stream, climbed the walnut tree and scared away the birds. I was kidnapped, gave birth to twelve children, swaddled and tended. I married sons, raised daughters and reached the age of thirty.
Don’t tell me, “Don’t cry, girl,” I will be angry.
I’ll not cry, let the mountains and rocks cry. I am blind, weak, worn-out and diseased. Where can I find those who caused this? Let the birds who feel more human than humans cry.
Winter is here dear. We've lighted the fire. The walnut tree is bare the stream is muddy. Death, mounted on a black horse, has spared me this time. We're cooking the red beets in the same pot again. Blow! We're full of smoke, grimy and wretched. Blow! The more hellish it gets the better. Blow! Does God resemble a knife or a hatchet? Blow, with your mouth of the blind! Your mouth is sharp. Yesterday, my daughter-in-law and I wept -- dead tired-They shot my Ahmedali in the forest. I told him not to wear his best -- there will be blood-They shot my Ahmedali in the forest. Hush! The more we suffer the better it is. Hush! Paradise! Hush, good tidings! Bring in the Holy Book. We had already seen the unlucky sign, From our silent, gloomy barn. My Memedali was to share your pillow, We buried him in his grave -- it was his fate-His clothes fit my Osman just right, His five hundred liras went to his dad --the corporal— Tell me, my loon, is the sparrow a bird, the sprat a fist, are we human? Don't weep my loon, our graves will overflow, Leave the dead alone. Let My Memedali go, To market to buy for you flannel cloth and shiny shoes. Ah, it's morning already, where's my daughter-in-law? They've kidnapped her. Now I must go begging. Selim Ağa, Selim Bey, please, let me have her back. Can't buy another one, let me have her back.
Ah, nobody has time, To stop and see the subtle things. They draw houses, children and graves in the world, With broad brushes and they pass on. When they open a song they see the sad things, After one look they close it again. The songs and all that is subtle enter the night. Their breasts contain a little pus, a little fish and a few tears. Open sea, you turn yourself into a giant. In the evenings your fog enters through the mouths Of the streams and invade our hazel trees. What can we do with the wizened buds? We implore our children: "Stay hungry for a while." We implore the traders: " Make fewer drawings Of hotels, of secret mergers, of banks. .." A plea from us to you and to all the others. We send our wives to manicure their hands, And say, " Yes sir, yes ma'am." We send our children to beg, We leave our hearths entrusting them to God, We are the motorized gypsies of the summer. Ah, nobody has time, To stop and see the subtle things. To return to fathers' houses, to the first rivers, To have passion for the land for its own sake. We close our ears: money money money We open our ears: fight fight fight If someone asks: Why, but why, always fight? Why axes against our neighbors, fists against our wives? We don't know why we fight. Then in the jailhouse of our town, We place our plight in front of us. We stretch and widen our days, To make room to think about our wives, To think about the changing days of our absence.
Even if no one has time To stop and see the subtle things Even if the women teachers Have longer holidays Even if they weave cloth to bind Our eyes in the name of the most sacred In drawings and in everything more and more, Spring flowers will blossom. One day some people from the other side, Will whistle and we'll whistle back.
My beloved summer is here again. We came upon the earth with ants and flies; Red mullets, perches, olives and lettuce. We left behind the April fog, the gloomy rains. The Black Sea is blue; my beloved summer is here again, To make children and poets happy. The year was sixty-eight; we'd gone through the forties and the fifties. We lived in the sixties, we committed offenses. The notices said: "Meet at Kizilay on May 5 at 5:00 p.m.” We all had jobs to attend... But Ankara had become the revolution's base. In the forties we were seven. The military service was Three years. They bragged that we stayed out of the war, ( they still brag). At the age of seven going to school hungry was the rule. --As the wheat was rotting beside furs and diamonds-We went to school hungry ( maybe a hard roll and an orange for lunch). To be skinny and ugly, to be ashamed of your shoes --This feeling lasts forever-Unhealthy teeth and unhealthy hair, Hands trembling and palpitation. Fear because one is ashamed, Not to have candy or dolls, or balls. Books, pencils, notebooks -- after days of crying. --This feeling lasts forever in each lonelinessThey bragged that the war was far from us -- They had kept us out of it, they were skillful and clever Then another villa, another furcoat, another trip to Europe. The well-fed white laughter in black limousines. A bunch of parsley, sometimes a basket of eggs, The salary was fifty liras and the soldiers' monthly ration ninety kuruş. Black black black Ankara The war abroad, building a new Rome, As the old Rome is destroyed. A world where the howling wolves roamed, And the dogs in heat with the rage of a long spring. Blood and fire, endless famine, Europe decaying,
With its trusts, banks and stock markets. With all the power of virtue, heroism and treachery. The year was nineteen fifty. My beloved summer had come. Not quite seventeen yet, at that moment Of tender age, still almost a child. We wondered why they had messed thing up, With what right -- how quickly we joined together-With love, shame, dispassion and hate, With forgiveness, a diluting disturbing forgiveness. Mays are beautiful, the stonecutters are brave, Letting water run through porous stones. The balladeers, the foul-mouthed fishermen, The grave diggers, the snail-gathering girls, The talkative smiling women, the wool-spinners, Those who have seen massacres, the crafty traders, Especially the revolutionaries, the revolutionaries, Who make mistakes all the time but end up in righteousness, Mays are beautiful. The ladies and gentlemen dance till the morning hours for cancer benefits. They take pity on the blind and the needy and collect receipts. The black headlines announce "The Honorable Philanthropists." For the idle businessmen.
Summer came to my favorite dresses kept in mothballs, To the moldy pickles and the rancid marmalades, To the science experts who rot from idleness. -- Ah, that useless chemistry that thinks itself the genuine stuff-With the wandering minstrel, the ballad singer and the forlorn poet, With the thin-eyebrowed and the lice-headed, With the nylon-stockinged and the mangy-horsed, . Summer came to Anatolia. -- Ah, that useless chemistry that thinks itself the genuine stuff-Stay where you are, don't you dare to move, Only drop in sometime like a socialist Jesus, Wait on the side to emerge when needed. May descends into Anatolia from its own streams, May descends into Anatolia from its own mountains. My beloved summer is here gain.