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Poems by İlyas Tunç

far words

I cried the truth out everywhere
and then I found I couldn’t sleep

uncover the basket and see what you find:
a chopped-off tongue !

a guillotine !

I wish I hadn’t told the truth
I would be sleeping still
in lullabies
and legends.

once my eyes were so sharp
I could see like an owl

but now! …

once my feet carried my head proudly
and all the cedars bowed down
paying tribute to my poems

but now!…

the guillotine !

oh, my lifetime ! a lame and lumpy rhythm!
because I cried out the truth
and nobody heard!


Tyrant and Angel

The angel of goodness is a tyrant
and we have to get rid of tyrants.
I warned the tyrant, standing still between the sun and me, to walk away. He said:
– “I’m not an oak; my shadow is under my free will. I can spread my shadow anywhere I want.”
False reasoning emerges at this very moment, when tyrants turn into angels, and we call their deeds good. Goodness then becomes: “I grant you a tiny part of my wealth and power; but only if I want to !”
Consider the power of Alexander the Great; was it good? No use asking the yesmen, the parasites content with crumbs from the table. I have never become a good man, nor have I ever begged someone for goodness.
Once upon a time, when there was no difference between rich and poor, a fox man stored as many sacks of wheat as he could gather. The following year there was a drought, the wheat didn’t grow, and people started to die of hunger. The fox man gave some wheat to his neighbours. Everywhere it was said he was a good man, like an angel. One day he died but what he did has been never forgotten:
Goodness !..
The oil of my lantern is almost running out: let it run out! When the shadows get shorter, I’ll take my clothes off and walk naked like Diogenes. Sinop, the city of Diogenes, is behind the hill over there. If I weren’t a Diogenes, I would be Tarzan Kemal He was born after I had died, but I’m his son. In poetic time, such miracles can happen. You ask how ?
Imagination drags history behind it.
Oh, the dead times of the sun ! The long hours of goodness !
I was just looking for a metaphor; I found it:
I make an oath to Icarus, who flew blind to his own death, that I will not turn my back to the sun. I will not leave my future, my forward-flying breast, in shadow.


the cynic

This is the age of blood and pus; the age of the spectacle, of disgusting images, of plastic surgeons selling repairs ! Of larvas, amoebas, asexual reproductions ! Of sperm banks, orgasms from pharmaceuticals!.
Hey ! Human beings, anthropoids! Listen to my voice from another age.
Lambs are babies! Don’t behead them, please ! But you have slaughtered them for your feasts and your gods, broken their bones and sucked their marrows… You have made laws for your benefit alone…You have hygienic tissues, refined tastes, silk shirts and white underpants…
I went into the Lonca gate, the entrance of Sinop Castle, and walked around the fairground and the market, the embezzlers, the pawnbrokers, the thick-headed… I climbed up to the hilltop and shouted down:
Hey, cynics! Where are you ?
Diogenes is long dead. I don’t have a barrel, and my lantern has gone out. But I leave you shadows, and everything that is beautiful. I didn’t have my unwanted hair plucked, the wrinkles of my skin ironed, or my breasts tightened with silicon. I stripped naked, gave myself to the water, to the Karakum beach, to the sun and the odour of blackberries…
You paid a quarter to look, and laughed your heads off…
I went out of the Lonca gate, and walked to the lighthouse in Inceburun. Weeds, bugs, tortoises, porcupines…a sea-snail stared at me and I whispered:
I’m a Sinopian, Tarzan Kemal.
One of you.


ha ha ha ha

when I was a child, I left something incomplete…the heartsick clown! the funny duck of the fair! complete it…
shoes too large for my tiny feet!
wear them later, wear them later…
ha ha ha ha…

neither toffee-apples nor candyfloss! the rain lasted too long, my pants shrunk in the rain… nobody believed in my tears… flood of useless applouse, and mad laughter, pants torn in the barbed wire…and the patch…
ha ha ha ha…

the parody ended, the make-up wiped off… here, a spot of blood, on the edge of my nose! the shows of false loneliness, spectators, the masked and the two-faced… look! my lifetime has flowed like a river without hypocrisy… I got too old and forgot my cue… the puny boy! somersaulting beetle! remember it!

I fall flat on my face, I cannot stand up…
and people think it is a trick

ha ha ha ha
ha ha ha
ha ha




a giant red scorpion over the city
his long legs like huge crosses
and my body, turning into sponge
drunk up the poison of a copper cloud
you, rise up, ‘ye of little faith’ !
rise up, you carpenters and brickmakers!
go mend the roof of the orphanage!

a sacred spider in the streets
and in the attic of dusted lips
and it was the spider or the scorpion, or maybe both
that walked on the buttocks of the shy prostitute
rise up, you lesbians! rise up, men without fathers!
rise up, suicide attempers ! masters !
I have just returned from the World of the Dead
and there is nothing there, nothing!

but be quiet ! do not tell the truth !


white man

I who get this romantic soul from a Komançi
speak to kangaroos, but the white man doesn’t know it

a compass, a mirror and a watch with a chain
Great Manito ! keep me away from damned things

look ! the Blue Jacket troop has appeared suddenly
the fusils vomitting fire in their hands

the sky has no an owner, the soil belongs to all us
can the mud of the delicate river valley be sold

those Pale Faced fond of comic strips
thinks America is the land of Red Kid

who is more civilized, and which one is the Wild West
America, the ugly-faced, and the hunchback of Notre Dame

the white man knows cannibal tales well
homo hominu lipus, homo hominu lipus



shivering, the woman
in the deck of love whispered:
a piece of ice left in the wine glass
of offending words
cannot sink the ship
look around ! all the voyagers are sleeping
kiss and embrace me
kiss and embrace me
like gulls on the back
of a dolphin
crossing the ocean
just so cheerfully and crazily
kiss and embrace me
kiss and embrace me
death crashes into us
like a ship passing
through an iceberg
and our love finds
its own depth


we spoke of sand

we spoke of sand…

we broke the resistance of shells, we spoke of sunken cities, broken amphoras, underground movements…of sand; we spoke of kindnesses fallen into oblivion, of barefoot footprints… we didn’t forget wooden piers, dead hurricane lamps, rusted anchors… we included the flecks of the moonlight reflecting on the sea, we spoke of Venus, glorious love of the night, and other things…

for the wine had a goodness, the love an agelessness, the dolphin a wisdom… we said it, now that the hawser was untied, now that we had revised the rudder of our days, we said let’s talk …
so we talked …

we didn’t refer to starfish, brilliantly striped fish, or octopi… we skipped the faults of crabs, the flightiness of algae, the deep sleep of jellyfish on the sand… we passed over pebbles, tar stains, the smell of burnt oil… a surprised squid was caught in our fishnet; but we were only speaking…
of delicate things…
of sand…


rasping pain

my days are temporary
and my life is deaf
and soon I’ll depart
this slow rotating axle
like the worn tyre
of an old truck
and maybe someone
someone with a silken voice
will attach me to an old pier
as a buffer for boats
a man will knot me
with a false mooring-line !
then as soon as the boats
begin to rub against me
the pains of death
will start rasping


words of the knight

windmills of wings!
shadows of wings !

what a useless stable hand am I !
feeding scrawny horses with metaphors
and I can’t even enter the castle of poetry
with my bleeding words

don’t worry sancho panza:
castles are barren and useless anyway!
rather take this fertile island here,
just a few spear-lengths away
let it be my gift to you

his words were like fencing foils
gracious and deep

such a noble war between virtue and dishonesty
can heal the scars of bleeding words
as long as we forgive people and objects
and conquer shadows instead of bodies

epée words they were
heavy and sharp

knights! ill-fated poets!
the length of a thousand spears is nothing
but if you are a poet one pencil is enough
and you will never need to be a knigh

sword words they were
that’s how don quixote defeated me

 Poems Translated from Turkish by Robert Berold and İlyas Tunç