Nazim Hikmet

Last Letter to My Son

translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

 

For one thing, hangmen separated us;

for another, this rotten heart of mine

                      played a trick on me.

It isn’t in the cards

                       that I’ll see you again.

 

I know

as a young man you’ll be like a sheaf of wheat

          – tall, blond, and lean

            like me in my youth –  

with your mother’s big eyes,

and now and then you’ll grow strangely quiet,

your forehead full of light.

You’ll probably even have a good voice

                      – mine was awful –

and you’ll sing bittersweet, heartbreaking songs . . .

And you’ll know how to talk

– I did okay at that myself,

                    when I wasn’t too upset –

works will be honey on your tongue.

Yes, Memet,

                     you’ll drive the girls crazy . . .

It’s hard

           to bring up a boy without a father.

Go easy on your mother, son –

                      I couldn’t make her happy,

                                               but you try.

 

Your mother is

           as strong and soft as silk;

she’ll be as beautiful

           when she’s a grandmother

                       as she was the day I first saw her

                               on the Bosporus

                               at seventeen -

                      she is moonlight and sunshine, a heart cherry,

                               a true beauty.

 

Your mother

            and I said good-bye one morning,

                     thinking we’d meet again,

                               but we couldn’t.

She is the kindest

                     and smartest of mothers –

                               may she live to be a hundred!

 

I don’t fear death.

Still,

           it’s no fun

                     to startle in the middle of work sometimes

or count the days

                     before falling asleep alone.

You can never have enough of the world,

                     Memet, never enough. . .

 

Don’t live in the world as if you were renting

or here only for the summer,

but act as if it was your father’s house. . .

Believe in seeds, earth, and the sea,

but people above all.

Love clouds, machines, and books,

but people above all.

Grieve

           for the withering branch,

                     the dying star,

                               and the hurt animal,

           but feel for people above all.

Rejoice in all the earth’s blessings –

darkness and light,

the four seasons,

but people above all.

 

Memet,

our Turkey

                     is one sweet

                              country.

And its people,

           its real people,

                     are hard-working, serious, and brave

                              but frightfully poor.

Its people are long-suffering.

But it will turn out good.

You and your people there

will build Communism –

you’ll see it with your eyes and touch it with your hands.

 

Memet,

I’ll die far from my language and my songs,

my salt and my bread,

homesick for you and your mother,

my friends and my people,

but not in exile,

            not in some foreign land –

I will die in the country of my dreams,

            in the white city of my best days.

 

Memet,

           my son,

            I leave you in the care

                        of Turkey’s Communist Party.

I go

             at peace.

The life that’s coming to an end in me

will survive for a time in you

                        but will last forever in our people.

 

                        1955

                        Moscow

Nazim Hikmet

 Nazim  Hikmet

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), the foremost modern Turkish poet, was a political prisoner in Turkey for thirteen years and spent the last thirteen years of his life in exile. Banned in his native land for thirty years, his poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages.


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