I was born in 1902
I never once went back to my birthplace
I don’t like to turn back
at three I served as a pasha’s grandson in Aleppo
at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University
at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party’s guest
and I’ve been a poet since I was fourteen

some people know all about plants some about fish
                                   I know separation
some people know the names of the stars by heart
                                                       I recite absences
I’ve slept in prisons and in grand hotels
I’ve known hunger even a hunger strike and there’s almost no food
    I haven’t tasted
at thirty they wanted to hang me
at  forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize
                                 which they did

at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year
at fift-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours

I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in ‘24
in’61 the tomb I visit is his books

they tried to tear me away from my party
                      it didn’t work
nor was I crushed under falling idols

in ’51 I sailed with a toung friend into the teeth of death
in ’52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart

     waiting to die
I was jealous of the women I lowed
I didn’t envy Charlie Chaplin one bit
I deceived my women

I never talked behind my friends’ backs
I drank but not every day

I earned my bread money honestly what happiness
out of embarrassment for others I lied
I lied so as not to hurt someone else
                             but I also lied for no reason at all

I’ve ridden in trains planes and cars
most people don’t get the chance
I went to the opera
               most people haven’t even heard of the opera
and since’21 I haven’t gone to the places most people visit
                    mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers
              but I’ve had my coffee grounds read
my writings are published in thirty or forty languages
               in my Turkey in my Turkish they’re banned

cancer hasn’t caught up with me yet
and nothing says it will
I’ll never be a prime minister or anything like that
and I wouldn’nt want such a life

nor did I go to war
or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night
and I never had to take to the road under diving planes
but I fell in love at almost sixty
in short comrades
even if today in Berlin I’m croaking of grief
                                     I can say I’ve lived like a human being
and who knows
                    how much longer I’ll live
                                          what else will happen to me

                                                               11 September 1961, East Berlin

  • To live, free and single like a tree but in brotherhood like a forest- this longing is ours…