A Poem for a Thursday #78

Photo by Charlotte on Unsplash

Nâzim Hikmet was a Turkish poet, playwright, director, and novelist. His poems have been translated into more than 50 languages. He spent much of his life in prison for his political beliefs.

it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin 
night is falling 
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smokey 
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 
                      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 beaches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beaches 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 Iglaz 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 
                                      formerly "Goketepé ili" in 
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and 
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
                                       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
         magazines 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
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 the clouds
whether I'm under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most 
strikes me
I like it

I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or spatters
        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
 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

Things I Didn't Know I Loved
Nâzim Hikmet

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