2/09/2006

ELLAS AND STATUES

ELLAS AND STATUES

Feeling a pain in his breast, when he speaks
Feling guilty. As though fored to swallow
Unpalatable things. Nauseated
He casts taut threads into the world with his voice
Facing him one...two...three statues of mud
Upright, shout at every movement
With every movement crumble a little
Yet
Somewhere there have always been warm rooms
And old men in the warm rooms
Silent men, whose forefathers
Made miracles, always sacred tombs, saints
And candles burning on the gravestones
And birds circling at shoulder height
White birds.
Men have said their morning prayers in open country
Then returned with the birds to the ancient rooms
These two hundred years, the road has been traveled
Captain Dursun;s ship has been boarded
Sails have been unfurled. In the middle of the Black Sea
A storm. The passengers pray.
Suddenly someone with a hoary beard-
Hey, captain, who is it, who, who?
She is gone as he has come
The storm has fallen asleep
The sails are full, the ship on course
Someone tells the tale back in Unye
And as he tells it
The birds disappear, the candles go out
The ancestors are dead in their cupboards
But the ordeal goes on, and on
By every hearth
Everyone will die someday, will die
God will remain, the fire will be lighted
There will be people in the rooms

Smiling, bowing their heads, sighing
The wicked as they hide
The good as they grumble
Tail and thin, and wearing soft white garments.
His hand is an ungainly stone upon the table
To hide, but why? One of the statues laughs:
"You have been crushed."
"Look again...me or you?"

Taking breath from the people, breathing incantations on them
O dirty mod of the city, me or you?
The hand on the table has grown more shapely
It will be lifted slowly
The table will shake. This much is clear
The table will be upturned in the end
The hand will grow soft, more delicate
A cluster of yellow narcissus

A gust of wind across the corn
Sudden festivity upon the earth
Girls and machines hand in hand.
Some education from Paris, says one of statues
To enlighten the towns. The villages...how coarse!
Thou knowest, God! Where are you, grandfather, saint
Who with birds upon your shoulders
Gathered the scattered soldiers together
Steered the ship safe upon its course
Destroyed the statues grown too smug

The tangled skein is unwound
Potatoes are buried in ashes, the coffepot boils
On the path facing the window,
The sick on their stretchers, the dead on theirs
Anger is not the broken shoulder, the motionless leg
Anger is the corpse rolling of the stretcher
The secret in the books. The crossways are abandoned
Untangled the skein of wool
The end of the tangled skein in sight

Living with people, as they live
Inhaling the air they breathe
Breathing knowledge into them

Gülten Akın
Translated by Nermin Menemencioglu (1982)

Turkish Poetry in Translation

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