Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved by Nazim Hikmet


Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don’t like comparing
nightfall to a tired bird 

I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it 
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love 

and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
                         and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
                         and will be said after me 

I didn’t know I loved the sky 
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish 
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard 
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest 
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish 
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
                        lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen
handkerchief
                                       to a pine bough for luck 

I never knew I loved roads 
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the
Crimea
                                                            Koktebele
                                formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish 
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute 
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
                                         when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take 
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play 
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
                                      going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
    his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
      with a sable collar over his robe
   and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
   and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason 
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika 
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky 
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison 

I just remembered the stars 
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below 
or whether I’m flying at their side 

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
 were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
                             or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
    be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
    well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
    say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them 
they are our endless desire to grasp things seeing them
I could even think of death and not feel at all sad 
I never knew I loved the cosmos 

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind 
I didn’t know I liked snow  

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors 
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
                             except the Sea of Azov
or how much  

I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts 

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois 
strikes me
I like it 

I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
    heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
    and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
    rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
    by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette 
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue 

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
    to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
    watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

(Translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk)

 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for introducing Nazim Hikmet to me. Indra

    ReplyDelete