Nazim Hikmet

(1902-1963 / Turkey)

Hymn To Life


The hair falling on your forehead
suddenly lifted.
Suddenly something stirred on the ground.
The trees are whispering
in the dark.
Your bare arms will be cold.

Far off
where we can't see,
the moon must be rising.
It hasn't reached us yet,
slipping through the leaves
to light up your shoulder.
But I know
a wind comes up with the moon.
The trees are whispering.
Your bare arms will be cold.

From above,
from the branches lost in the dark,
something dropped at your feet.
You moved closer to me.
Under my hand your bare flesh is like the fuzzy skin of a fruit.
Neither a song of the heart nor "common sense"--
before the trees, birds, and insects,
my hand on my wife's flesh
is thinking.
Tonight my hand
can't read or write.
Neither loving nor unloving...
It's the tongue of a leopard at a spring,
a grape leaf,
a wolf's paw.
To move, breathe, eat, drink.
My hand is like a seed
splitting open underground.
Neither a song of the heart nor "common sense,"
neither loving nor unloving.
My hand thinking on my wife's flesh
is the hand of the first man.
Like a root that finds water underground,
it says to me:
"To eat, drink, cold, hot, struggle, smell, color--
not to live in order to die
but to die to live..."

And now
as red female hair blows across my face,
as something stirs on the ground,
as the trees whisper in the dark,
and as the moon rises far off
where we can't see,
my hand on my wife's flesh
before the trees, birds, and insects,
I want the right of life,
of the leopard at the spring, of the seed splitting open--
I want the right of the first man.


Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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