The most beautiful sea

                           hasn’t been crossed yet.

The most  beautiful child

                           hasn’t grown up yet

Our most beautiful days

                           we haven’t seen yet.

And the most beautiful words I wanted to tell you

                           I haven’t said yet…




Translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk


Builders are singing while building

            but building isn’t like singing.

It’s a little more difficult.


Builders’ hearts, bustling like fairgrounds

            but building sites are not fairgrounds.

Building sites are full of dust, earth,

            mud, snow.

On a building site you get your foot sprained,

                      your hands bleed.

On a building site,

neither is the tea always sweet and hot

nor is the bread fresh and soft

neither is everyone a hero

nor are friends always faithful.


Building isn’t like singing.

It’s a little more difficult.

Yes, difficult it is,

             but the building is rising regardless.

Flower pots have already appeared

                     on the windowsills of the lower floors.

The birds carry, on their wings, the sun

                     to the newly completed balconies.

There is a heartbeat

in every beam, in every column, in every brick

Yes, it is rising, it is rising

the building is rising in blood and sweat.



Translated by: Cahit Baylav




The knight of immortal youth

at the age of fifty found his mind in his heart

and on a July morning went out to capture

the right, the beautiful, the just.


Facing him a world of silly and arrogant giants,

he on his sad but brave Rocinante.


I know what it means to be longing for something,

but if your heart weighs only a pound

                                         and sixteen ounces,

there’s no sense, my Don, in fighting

                                           these senseless windmills.


But you are right, of course, Dulcinea is your women,

the most beautiful in the world;

I’m sure you’ll shout this fact

at the face of street-traders;

but they”ll pull you down from your horse

and beat you up.

But you, the unbeatable knight of our cause,

will continue to glow behind the heavy, iron visor

and Dulcinea will become even more beautiful.



Translated from the Turkish by Taner Baybars



Galloping from farthest Asia

and jutting out into the Mediterranean

like a mare’s head—

this country is ours.

Wrists in blood, teeth clenched, feet bare

on this soil that’s like a silk carpet—

this hell, this paradise is ours.

Shut the gates of servitude, keep them shut,

stop man worship another man—

this invitation is ours.

To live, free and single like a tree

but in brotherhood like a forest—

this longing is ours.



Translated from the Turkish by Taner Baybars



Neither to hear voices from the world beyond

nor strive to bring into my verses the “unfathomable”

nor search for the rhyme with the care of a jeweler,

no beautiful words, profound discourse

                      Thank God

                                  I am above

                                            well above this tonight.



I am a street singer, there is no talent in my voice;

my voice is singing for you a song you will not hear.


It is snowing in the night,

You are at the door of Madrid.

In front of you an army

           killing the most beautiful things we own,

                      hope, yearning, freedom and children,

                                              The City. . . .


It is snowing

And perhaps tonight

your wet feet are cold.

It is snowing

And while I am thinking about you

a bullet might be hitting you right now;

then for you no more

            snow, wind, day or night. . . .


It is snowing.

Before you stood at the door of Madrid

            saying “no pasaran”

            you must have been living somewhere.


Who knows


you came from the coal mines of the Asturias

Perhaps around your head a bloody bandage

hides a wound you got in the North.

 And perhaps you were the one who fired the last shot in the suburbs

while the “Junkers” were burning Bilbao.

Or perhaps you were a hired hand

on the farm of some Count Fernando Valeskeras de Cordoban

Perhaps you had a small shop on the “Plaza del Sol”

you sold colorful Spanish fruits.

Perhaps you had no craft, perhaps you had a beautiful voice.

Perhaps you were a student of philosophy or law

and your books were crushed by the wheels of an Italian tank

on the campus of your Universty.

Perhaps you did not believe in heaven

and perhaps you have on your chest

a little cross hanging on a string.


Who are you, what is your name, when were you born?

I have never seen, I will never see your face.

Who knows

Perhaps it looks like the faces

of those who beat Kolchak in Siberia;

Perhaps it looks like the face

of someone who lies on the battlefield of Dumlupinar*

you might even look something like Robespierre.


I have never seen, I will never see your face,

you have never heard, you will never hear my name.

There are between us seas and mountains,

                       my cursed helplessness,

and the “Committee of Non-Intervention”

I cannot come to you

I cannot even send you

                      a case of cartridges 

                                  fresh eggs

                                              or o pair of woolen socks.


And yet I know,

in this cold snowy weather

your wet feet guarding the door of Madrid

are cold like two naked children.

I know,

everything great and beautiful there is,

everything great and beautiful man has still to create

that is, everything my nostalgic soul hopes for

Smiles in the eyes

            of the sentry at the door of Madrid.

And tomorrow, like yesterday, like tonight

I can do nothing else but love him


Translated by: Ali Yunus




Air is heavy as lead.

I cry



I’m crying.


to melt

the lead




He says to me,

“Heey! Your voice may turn you to ash

like Kerem
















are deaf.

Air is heavy as lead.”

I say to him,

“May that I turn

to ash

like Kerem




If I don’t burn

if you don’t burn

if we don’t burn

how will darkness

ever turn

into light?”

Air is pregnant as the soil,

air is heavy as lead.

I cry


I’m crying.


I’m calling you

to melt

this lead

this lead

this lead...

Translated from the Turkish by Taner Baybars



want to die before you.

Do you think the one who follows

finds the one who went first?

I don’t think so.

It would be best to have me burned

and put in a jar

              over your fireplace.

Maket he jar

clear glass,

               so you can watch me inside. . .

You see my sacrifice:

I give up being earth,

I give up being a flower,

                                        just tos tay near you.

And I become dust

to live with you.

Then, when you die,

you can come into my jar

and we’ll live there together,

your ashes with mine,

until some dizzy bride

or wayward grandson

tosses us out. . .


by then

we’ll be

so mixed


that even at the dump our atoms

                              will fall by side by side.

We’ll dive into the earth  together.

And if one day a wild flower

finds water and springs up from that piece of earth,

İts stem will have

two blooms for sure:

                             one will be you,

                             the other me.




I’m not

about to die yet.

I want to bear another child.

I’m full of life.

My blood is hot.

I’ll live a long, long time

with you.

Death doesn’t scare me,

and with you.

Death doesn’t scare me,

I just don’t find our funeral arrangements

                                too attractive.

But everything could change

before I die.

Any chance you’ll get out of prison soon?

Something inside me says:


                                                                      18 Şubat 1945


Translated by: Randy Blasing& Mutlu Konuk







To see

           to hear

                       to feel

                                   to think

                                                to speak

to run without stopping,

to run


         oh, to run




To hell with it all

                         what a beautiful


it is to be alive!


Think of me

while my arms embrace your wide hips

          mother to my tree children,

think of the sound of a naked drop of water

             dropping on a black stone.


Think of the colour

          the flesh, the name of the fruit

you like most,

think of its taste in your eyes

          of the red red sun,

                        pure green grass

                        and of the huge blue blue ray

blossoming fort from the moon.

Think, Taranta-Babu:




                         and arm

have pulled from the seventh depth

                                                 of the Earth

and shaped so many fire-eyed, steel gods

who now can destroy the world

                         with a single blow;

the pomegranate that fruits one in one year

           can fruit one thousand;

and the world is so large

so beautiful

                  and the shores so infinite

that at night we can lie on the sand

                 and hear the starred water.

How wonderful it is to be alive


                   how wonderful Life is!

To understand it as a masterpiece

to hear it as a song of love

and to live like a child wondering,

to live

          on by one

                          but all together

as if weaving the most wonderful silk cloth.

Ah, to live...

But how odd, Taranta-Babu


‘this incredibly beautiful activity’

this most joyful feel of all things

has become

so  difficult

so narrow

so bloody


Translated from the Turkish by Taner Baybars




Living is no laughing matter:

you must live with great seriousness

like a squirrel, for example—

 I mean, without looking for something beyond and above living,

I mean living must be your whole life.

Living is no laughing matter:

you must take it seriously,

so much so and to such a degree

     that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,

your back to the wall,

or else in a laboratory

in your white coat and safety glasses,

you can die for people—

even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,

even though you know living

is the most real, the most beautiful thing.

I mean, you must take living so seriously

that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees—

and not for your children, either,

but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,

because living, I mean, weighs heavier.



Let’s say we’re seriously ill, need surgery—

which is to say we might not get up

from the white table.

Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad

about going a little too soon,

we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,

we’ll look out the window to see if it’s raining,

or still wait anxiously

for the latest newscast...

Let’s say we’re at the front—

for something worth fighting for, say.

There, in the first offensive, on that very day,

we might fail on our face, dead.

We’ll know this with a curious anger,

but we’ll still worry ourselves to death

about the outcome of the war, which could last years.

Let’s say we’re in prison

and close to fifty,

and we have eighteen more years, say,

before the iron doors will open.

We’ll still live with the outside,

with its people and animals, struggle and wind—

I mean with the outside beyond the walls.

I mean, however and wherever we are,

we must live as if we will never die.



This earth will grow cold,

a star among stars

and one of the smallest,

a gilded mote on blue velvet—

I mean this, our great earth.

This earth will grow cold one day,

not like a block of ice

or a dead cloud even

but like an empty walnut it will roll along

in pitch-black space...

You must grieve for this right now

—you have to feel this sorrow now—

for the world must be loved this much

if you’re going to say “I lived”...

Translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk


Since I was thrown inside

the earth has gone around the sun ten times.

If you ask it:

That’s nothing—

a microscopic span.”

If you ask me:

“Ten years of my life!”

I had a pencil

the year I was thrown inside.

It lasted me a week.

If you ask it:

“A whole lifetime!”

If you ask me:

“What’s a week?”


Since I’ve been inside

Osman did his seven-and-a-half

for manslaughter and left,

knocked around on the outside for a while,

then landed back inside for smuggling,

served six months, and got out again;

yesterday we had a letter—he’s married,

with a kid coming in the spring.


They’re ten years old now

the children born

the year I was thrown inside.

And that year’s foals, shaky on their spindly long legs,

have been wide-rumped, contented mares for some time.

But the olive seedlings are still saplings,

still children.


New squares have opened in my far-off city

since I was thrown inside.

And my family now lives

in a house I haven’t seen

on a street I don’t know.


Bread was like cotton, soft and white,

the year I was thrown inside.

Then it was rationed,

and here inside men killed

for a fist-sized black loaf.


Now it’s free again

but dark and tasteless.


The year I was thrown inside

the SECOND hadn’t started yet.


The ovens at Dachau hadn’t been lit,

nor the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.


Time flowed like blood from a child’s slit throat.

Then that chapter was officially closed.

Now the American dollar talks of a THIRD.


Still, the day has gotten lighter

         since I was thrown inside.

And “at the edge of darkness,

pushing against the earth with their heavy hands,

THEY’ve risen up” halfway.


Since I was thrown inside

the earth has gone around the sun ten times.

And I repeat with the same passion

what 1 wrote about THEM

the year I was thrown inside:

“They who are numberless like ants in the earth,

fish in the sea,

birds in the air,

who are cowardly, brave,

ignorant, wise,

and childlike,

and who destroy

and create,

my songs tell only of their adventures,”

And anything else,

such as my ten years here,

is just so much talk.

Translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk


He was a blue-eyed giant,
he loved a miniature woman.
The woman’s dream was of a miniature house
   with a garden where honeysuckle grows
     in a riot of colours
       that sort of house.

The giant loved like a giant,
and his hands were used to such big things
      that the giant could not
Make the building,
      could not knock on the door
Of the garden where the honeysuckle grows
      in a riot of colours
         at that house.

He was a blue-eyed giant,
he loved a miniature woman,
a mini miniature woman.
The woman was hungry for comfort
    and tired of the giant’s long strides.
And bye bye off she went to the embraces of a rich dwarf
    with a garden where honeysuckle grows
      in a riot of colours
        that sort of house.

Now the blue-eyed giant realizes,
there can’t be a grave for giant’s loves:
in the garden where honeysuckle grows
     in a riot of colours
      that sort of house…

Translation: Nilüfer Mizanoğlu-Reddy


The great humankind, deck passengers on the boats

                  third class on the trains

                                           on foot on the highways

                                           the great humankind.


The great humankind begins to work at the age of eight

                  weds at twenty

                  dies at forty

                   the great humankind


There is enough bread  

            for all except for the great humankind

                   and enough rice

                   and enough sugar 

                   and enough fabrics           

                   and enough books

            for all except for the great humankind.


There is no shade in the great humankind’s fields

                             no lamps in its streets

                             no glass in its windows.


But the great humankind does have hope,

                            one cannot live without hope.


                                                                                     7 Ekim 1958


 Translated by: Cahit Baylav




It’s I knocking on the doors,

one by one, on every door.

I can’t be seen to your eyes

dead children can’t be seen.


Some ten years have gone past

since I died in Hiroshima.

I’m still only seven-

dead children don’t grow up.


My hair caught fire first

then my eyes burned, scorched.

I turned into a handful of ash,

then my ashes were blown into the air.


I’m not here to ask you

to do anything for myself.

A burnt child

can’t even eat sweets.


I’m at your door Madam, Sir,

to ask you for your signature.

So that children don’t get killed

so that they can even eat sweets.       



Translation: Cahit Baylav


You’re like a scorpion, my brother,
you live in cowardly darkness
                                like a scorpion.
You’re like a sparrow, my brother,
always in a sparrow’s flutter.
You’re like a clam, my brother,
closed like a clam, content.
And you’re scary, my brother,
                              like the mouth of a sleeping volcano.

Not one,
          not five- 
sadly, you number millions.
You’re like sheep, my brother:
                            when the cloaked drover raises his stick,
                                                  you quickly join the flock
and run, almost proudly, to the slaughterhouse.
I mean, you’re the strangest creature on earth-
even stranger than the fish
                             that couldn’t see the ocean for the water.
And the oppression in this world
                             is thanks to you.
And if we’re hungry, tired, covered with blood,
and still being crushed like grapes for our wine,
                                                the fault is yours-
I can hardly bring myself to say it,
but most of the fault, my dear brother, is yours.        

Translation: Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk



Brothers and sisters,

never mind my blond hair,

I am an Asian;

never mind my blue eyes,

I am and African.

The trees do not offer much shade in my country

                     just as in yours;

         the bread is in the lion’s mouth,

         dragons sleep on fountain tops,

         people die before they are fifty in my country

                         just as in yours.

Never mind my blond hair,

I am an Asian;

never mind my blue eyes,

I am an African.


Eighty percent of my people can’t read or write;

poems spread as songs from mouth to mouth;

poems may turn into flags in my country

                    just as yours.


Brothers and sisters,

let our poems, paired with a feeble ox, plough the land;

let them walk into a swampy rice field up to their knees;

let them ask all the questions;

let them harvest all the lights.

                                                                       22 Ocak 1962


Translated by: Cahit Baylav







Today is Sunday.

Today, for the first time.

                        they took me out into the sun

and for the first time in my life

I looked at the sky

amazed that it was so far

and so blue

and so wide.

I stood without moving

and then respectfully sat on the black earth,

pressed my back against the wall.

Now, not even a thought of dying,

not a thought of freedom, of my wife.

The earth, the sun and me ...

I am happy.





Translated from the Turkish by Taner Baybars



Two loves can’t exist in one heart.

What a lie-

it happens all the time.


Tonight in this cold, rainy city

I’m lying on my back in my hotel,

staring at the ceiling.

Cloud croos it

slowly, like trucks passing on the wet asphalt,

and far off to the rigt

               a gold needle shines at the top

                              of a white building

maybe a hundred stories tall.

Clouds cross the ceiling

filled with the sun, like watermelon boats.

I’m sitting in a bay window,

the light off the water hitting my face-

a river or the sea?


What’s on that tray

with the roses-

wild strawberries or black mulberries?

Am I in a field of  jonquils

or a snowy beech grove?

The women I love are laugh and cry

                                             in two languages.

Friends, what brought you together?

You don’t know each other.

Where do you wait for me-

at the Sycamore Cafe in Beyazıt, or in Gorki Park?

Tonight in this cold, rainy city

I’m Iying on my back in my hotel.

My eyes burn, wide-open


I hear a tune

harmonicas started end with a lute.

My longings for two distant cities

get all tangled up inside me.


To jump out of bed

and run through the rain

to the station:

“Drive, engineer-

                              Brother, take me there!”


17 July 1959


Translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing & Mutlu Konuk



Foamlike clouds my head,

                 the sea is me inside and out,

a walnut tree I am, in Gülhane Park:

an old walnut tree, gnarled and scarred.

This, neither you notice, nor the police.


I am a walnut tree in Gülhane Park.

My leaves sparkle like fish in water.

My leaves flutter like silk handkerchiefs;

pick a few, sweetheart, and wipe your tears.

My leaves are my hands; I have one hundred thousand hands.

I touch you, Istanbul, with one hundred thousand hands.

My leaves are my eyes, I look in wonder.

I watch you, Istanbul, with one hundred thousand eyes…

And my leaves beat, like one hundred thousand hearts.


I am walnut tree in Gülhane Park,

this, neither you notice, nor the police.


                                                                             1 Temmuz 1957        

 Translated by: Cahit Baylav




Your soul is a river my sweetheart,

flowing from up there, through the mountains

towards the plain,

towards the plain but never reaching it

never reaching to join the willow trees in their sleep;

never reaching the comfort of the wide arches of the bridges,

            the marshes, the green headed ducks;

never reaching the soft sorrow of the plain;

never reaching wheat fields in moonlight

it flows towards the plain.

It flows from up there, through the mountains,

pulling with it the clouds gathering this minute, dispersing the next;

carrying in the night, the big stars,

the stars of mountain tops


also carrying the sun of mountain snows,

gurgling and bubbling it flows fiercely

mixing white pebbles with black ones.


It flows together with its fish swimming updrift

Hesitant at the bends,

then falling down the cliffs, then rearing up

Gone crazy with its own thunder

flows from up there, through the mountains

towards the plain.

Towards the the plain,

chasing the plain,

but never reaching the plain.


                                                                               3 Şubat 1960

Translated by: Cahit Baylav