Translation: Michael Burch and others

Michael R. Burch

Apni Marzi Se
(by Nida Fazli)

translated by Mandakini Bhattacherya and Michael R. Burch

 

This journey was not of my making;

As the winds blow, I’m blown along ...

Time and dust are my ancient companions;

Who knows where I’m bound or belong?

 

Apni Marzi se kahan apne safar ke hum hain,

Rukh hawaaon ka jidhar ka hai udhar ke hum hain.

Waqt ke saath mitti ka safar sadiyon se,

Kisko maaloom kahan ke hain kidhar ke hum hain.

*** 



Ben Sana Mecburum: “You are indispensable” (by Attila Ilhan)

translation/interpretation by Nurgül Yayman and Michael R. Burch

 

You are indispensable; how can you not know

that you’re like nails riveting my brain?

I see your eyes as ever-expanding dimensions.

You are indispensable; how can you not know

that I burn within, at the thought of you?

 

Trees prepare themselves for autumn;

can this city be our lost Istanbul?

Now clouds disintegrate in the darkness

as the street lights flicker

and the streets reek with rain.

You are indispensable, and yet you are absent ...

 

Love sometimes seems akin to terror:

a man tires suddenly at nightfall,

of living enslaved to the razor at his neck.

Sometimes he wrings his hands,

expunging other lives from his existence.

Sometimes whichever door he knocks

echoes back only heartache.

 

A screechy phonograph is playing in Fatih ...

a song about some Friday long ago.

I stop to listen from a vacant corner,

longing to bring you an untouched sky,

but time disintegrates in my hands.

Whatever I do, wherever I go,

you are indispensable, and yet you are absent ...

 

Are you the blue child of June?

Ah, no one knows you—no one knows!

Your deserted eyes are like distant freighters ...

perhaps you are boarding in Yesilköy?

Are you drenched there, shivering with the rain

that leaves you blind, beset, broken,

with wind-disheveled hair?

 

Whenever I think of life

seated at the wolves’ table,

shameless, yet without soiling our hands ...

Yes, whenever I think of life,

I begin with your name, defying the silence,

and your secret tides surge within me

making this voyage inevitable.

You are indispensable; how can you not know?
***


Excerpts from "The Dice Player" (by Mahmoud Darwish)

loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

 

Who am I to say

the things I say to you?

 

I am not a stone

burnished to illumination by water ...

 

Nor am I a reed

riddled by the wind

into a flute ...

 

No, I'm a dice player:

I win sometimes

and I lose sometimes,

just like you ...

or perhaps a bit less.

 

I was born beside the water well with the three lonely trees like nuns:

born without any hoopla or a midwife.

 

I was given my unplanned name by chance,

assigned to my family by chance,

and by chance inherited their features, attributes, habits and illnesses.

 

First, arterial plaque and hypertension;

second, shyness when addressing my elders;

third, the hope of curing the flu with cups of hot chamomile;

fourth, laziness in describing gazelles and larks;

fifth, lethargy dark winter nights;

sixth, the lack of a singing voice.

 

I had no hand in my own being;

it was mere coincidence that I popped out male;

mere coincidence that I saw the pale lemon-like moon illuminating sleepless girls

and did not unleash the mole hidden in my private parts.

 

I might not have existed

had my father not married my mother

by chance.

 

Or I might have been like my sister

who screamed then died,

only alive an hour

and never knowing who gave her birth.

 

Or like the doves’ eggs

smashed before her chicks hatched.

 

Was it mere coincidence

that I was the one left alive in a traffic accident

because I didn’t board the bus ...

because I’d forgotten about life and its routines

while reading the night before

a love story in which I became first the author,

then the lover, then the beloved and love’s martyr ...

then overslept and avoided the accident!

 

I also played no role in surviving the sea,

because I was a reckless boy,

allured by the magnetic water

calling: Come to me!

No, I only survived the sea

because a human gull rescued me

when he saw the waves pulling me under and paralyzing my hands!

 

Who am I to say

the things I say to you

outside the church door?

 

I'm nothing but a dice throw,

a toss between predator and prey.

 

In my moonlit awareness

I witnessed the massacre

and survived by sheer chance:

I was too small for the enemy to target,

barely bigger than the bee

flitting among the fence’s flowers.

 

Then I feared for my father and family;

I feared for our time as fragile as glass;

I feared for my pet cat and rabbit;

I feared for a magical moon looming high over the mosque’s minarets;

I feared for our vines’ grapes

dangling like a dog’s udders ...

 

Then fear walked beside me and I walked with it,

barefoot, forgetting my fragile dreams of what I had wanted for tomorrow

because there was no time for tomorrow.

 

I was lucky the wolves

departed by chance,

or else escaped from the army.

 

I also played no role in my own life,

except when Life taught me her recitations.

Are there any more?, I wondered,

then lit my lamps and tried to amend them ...

 

I might not have been a swallow

had the wind ordained it otherwise ...

 

The wind is the traveler's fate: his fortune or misfortune.

 

I flew north, east, west ...

but the south was too harsh, too rebellious for me

because the south is my country.

I became a swallow’s metaphor,

hovering over my life’s debris

from spring to autumn,

baptizing my feathers in the cloud-like lake

then offering my salaams to the undying Nazarene:

undying because God’s spirit lives within him

and God is the prophet’s luck ...

 

While it is my good fortune to be the Godhead’s neighbor ...

 

Just as it is my bad fortune the cross

remains our future’s eternal ladder!

 

Who am I to say

the things I say to you?

Who am I?

 

I might have not been inspired

because inspiration is the lonely soul’s compensation

and the poem is his dice throw

on an unlit board

that may or may not glow ...

 

Words fall ...

as feathers fall to earth:

I did not plan this poem.

I only obeyed its rhythm’s demands.

 

Who am I to say

the things I say to you?

 

It might not have been me.

I might not have been here to write it.

My plane might have crashed one morning

while I slept till noon

then arrived at the airport too late

to visit Damascus and Cairo,

the Louvre, and other enchanting cities.

 

Had I been a slow walker, a rifle might have severed my shadow from its cedar.

Had I been a fast walker, I might have disintegrated and vanished like a fleeting whim.

Had I dreamt too much, I might have lost my memories of reality.

 

I am fortunate to sleep alone

listening to my body's complaints

with my talent for detecting pain,

so that I call the physician ten minutes before death:

dodging death by a mere ten minutes,

continuing life by chance,

disappointing the Void.

 

But who am I to disappoint the Void?

Who am I?

Who?


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