Monday, September 20, 2010

Human Landscapes from My Country

For Süheyla, with love.

Haydar Pasha Station,
spring 1941,
On the steps, sun
                                    and confusion.

A man
         stops on the steps,
                 thinking about something.
His nose is long and pointed,
and his cheeks are pockmarked.
The man on the steps,
                  Master Galip,
                           is famous for thinking strange thoughts:
"If I could eat sugar wafers every day," he thought
                                                           when he was 5.
"If I could go to school," he thought
                                     at 10.
"If I could leave Father's knife shop
before the evening prayers," he thought
                                            at 11.
"If I could buy a pair of yellow shoes
so the girls will look at me," he thought
                                            at 15
"Why did Father close his knife shop?
And the factory is nothing like this shop,"
                                                                he thought
                                                                at 16.
"Will my pay go up?" he thought
                                      at 20
"Father died at fifty -
will I die early too?" he thought
                                     when he was 21.
"What if I get laid off?" he thought
                                     at 22.
"What if I get laid off?" he thought
                                     at 23.
"What if I get laid off?" he thought
                                     at 24.
And out of work from time to time,
he thought "What if I get laid off?"
                                     till he was 50.
At 51 he thought: "I'm old -
                   I've lived one year longer than my father."
Now he's 52.
He's out of work.
Stopped on the steps now,
        he' lost
                in the strangest of thoughts:
"When will I die?
Will I have a bed to die in?
                                        he thinks.
His nose is long and pointed.
His cheeks are pockmarked.

Spring comes to Haydar Pasha Station
wih the smell of fish in the sea
                           and bedbugs on the floor.

Excerpt from the very beginning of Human Landscapes from My Country, an Epic Novel in Verse, by Nazim Hikmet, translated from the Turkish by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk.

ISBN 0-89255-273-5, Published 2002, Persea Books.

Pictures from Carol Guillaume' album Railway Stations and Marco's Gallery.