Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Letters in Poems: Nazim Hikmet (II)

Nazim Hikmet

Last Letter to My Son

(translation by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk)

For one thing, hangmen separated us;
for another, this rotten heart of mine
played a trick on me.
It isn’t in the cards
that I’ll see you again.

I know
as a young man you’ll be like a sheaf of wheat
– tall, blond, and lean
like me in my youth – 
with your mother’s big eyes,
and now and then you’ll grow strangely quiet,
your forehead full of light.
You’ll probably even have a good voice
– mine was awful –
and you’ll sing bittersweet, heartbreaking songs . . .
And you’ll know how to talk
– I did okay at that myself,
when I wasn’t too upset –
works will be honey on your tongue.

Yes, Memet,
you’ll drive the girls crazy . . .
It’s hard
to bring up a boy without a father.
Go easy on your mother, son –
I couldn’t make her happy,
but you try.

Your mother is
as strong and soft as silk;
she’ll be as beautiful
when she’s a grandmother
as she was the day I first saw her
on the Bosporus
at seventeen -
she is moonlight and sunshine, a heart cherry,
a true beauty.

Your mother
and I said good-bye one morning,
thinking we’d meet again,
but we couldn’t.
She is the kindest
and smartest of mothers –
may she live to be a hundred!

I don’t fear death.
it’s no fun
to startle in the middle of work sometimes
or count the days
before falling asleep alone.
You can never have enough of the world,
Memet, never enough. . .

Don’t live in the world as if you were renting
or here only for the summer,
but act as if it was your father’s house. . .
Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea,
but people above all.
Love clouds, machines, and books,
but people above all.
for the withering branch,
the dying star,
and the hurt animal,
but feel for people above all.

Rejoice in all the earth’s blessings –
darkness and light,
the four seasons,
but people above all.

our Turkey
is one sweet
And its people,
its real people,
are hard-working, serious, and brave
but frightfully poor.
Its people are long-suffering.
But it will turn out good.
You and your people there
will build Communism –
you’ll see it with your eyes and touch it with your hands.

I’ll die far from my language and my songs,
my salt and my bread,
homesick for you and your mother,
my friends and my people,
but not in exile,
not in some foreign land –
I will die in the country of my dreams,
in the white city of my best days.

my son,
I leave you in the care
of Turkey’s Communist Party.
I go
at peace.
The life that’s coming to an end in me
will survive for a time in you
but will last forever in our people.


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