The spongelike rock
which rolled down from the mountain
must be nice and soft, imagines the fish.
that have washed ashore;
heedless of their petrifaction,
the child lets them off into the waves
as if what’s been killed
by this-life, could live anew.
The salt imbibed on the rib of the boat
the purple smell of thyme
on the bosom of the marine rocks…
And amidst all this beauty
only in the loved one does Beauty become incarnate,
transforming into a legend
quite suitable for the art of poetry.
The fisherman who gave its title to the poem
is unaware of the beauty that’s his own.
Yet beauty too would like to be known
so as to reveal itself on the surface of the sea,
so that the soul may bear the body
and the body the soul.
He checks his watch with every sip from his drink, he explains
to the phone in his inside pocket. Pardon me, but let’s talk straight
though we sit awry, we’re at a tavern table.
I once saw quails on offer in a desert market
they were perched on the counter, as if singed and ready to cook.
There were rings and such on their legs.
No, they’re free… Can’t you see, they don’t fly off mate!
Fly fly fly I flap my wings, nope, they don’t fly.
The chap who assessed the situation right in the middle of making love
checked his watch again, loosened his tie a bit
then folded his wings and neatly put them in his briefcase.
I must go home early again. Ok, tomorrow evening then?.. Don’t think so.
I don’t think so either, and why spend money on a cage
I saw it with my own eyes I tell you, they don’t fly, the quails.
Why did I feel sad then, you say.
Perched on the edge of a chair at a flowing and ebbing shorefront café,
and unable to find a place to park your backpack, you listen
to those words of yearning,
which he spoke as he averted his gaze… [It’s a game,
when he flees you catch him, when he catches you flee.
The light is stuck in the hardened crystal.
Everything can be laughed off now.
Impossible to go with someone who has so grieved you,
then you can go now it won’t make a difference anymore.]
Alright, you say, but how can I give up my Sorrow,
suddenly say, let’s split up having lived together
so long, just because you’re back…
I’ll have to feel sad some day in any case
a shame if my sorrow installments went to waste.
Translated from Turkish into English by Linda Stark
Mehmet Yashin (Yaşın) (1958, Nicosia) is one of the unique poets of contemporary Turkish poetry. He is also one of the internationally best-known contemporary poets and authors from Cyprus. The different voice and sensibility that he brings to Turkish poetry is based on his hybrid literary sources, combining the Turkish, Greek and Levantine cultures of the Mediterranean, creating a dramatic and narrative lyricism, using Turkish in his writing by reference to historically and geographically variant forms of the language, as well as his poetic themes which give importance to personal experiences.
He was born as a member of a cosmopolitan Cypriot family and experienced inter-communal conflicts during his childhood. His parents, who were both parts of the literary and cultural world, separated before he was born. In 1976, he went to Turkey and studied International Relations at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Ankara University. He then completed a master’s degree in political history at the Institute of Social Sciences of Istanbul University. His first poetry collection was banned by the Turkish military junta which made a coup d’etat in 1980, and he was deported from Turkey in 1986 for what was characterized as his ‘subversive’ poetry. He went to Britain where he began post-graduate studies at the Centre for Byzantine-Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies at Birmingham University. He worked on Cypriot and Turkish literatures and cultures, and he received a postgraduate degree from Middlesex University, London. He also studied Greek Language and Literature at the University of Athens. In 1993, following the lifting of his deportation order, he returned to Istanbul, but went back to London in 1996. He has taught comparative literature, translation studies, creative writing, Cypriot studies and contemporary Turkish literature at various universities in Britain, Turkey and Cyprus. Since 2002, he has been living between Cambridge, Nicosia and Istanbul.
He has published 8 poetry collections, 2 novels, 3 essay collections, 3 anthologies and studies of Cypriot poetry in Istanbul. His books have played an important role in re-defining the literary traditions of Cyprus and Turkey. He is also known as one of the leading figures in post-1974 Cypriot poetry and literature as well as post-1980s Turkish poetry. In post-1980s Turkish poetry, he also became influential through his poems which reflected a different understanding and his critical literary essays. He developed such concepts and approaches to literature like ‘step-mothertongue,’ the center-periphery,’ and ‘Turkish minority literature.’ He is the first ‘outsider’ poet and author to have been widely recognized as a contemporary author in Turkish literature, despite not having been born in Turkey and not being a Turkish citizen. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his books have been published in various countries. His poems were arranged to music and adapted for the stage as well as to visual arts. http://www.mehmetyashin.com/ing/index.htm