japonisme: things i didn't know i loved

29 September 2007

things i didn't know i loved


it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it
I've never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I've loved rivers
all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can't wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn't know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn't know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Pere- delkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
"the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high"
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
formerly "Goktepé ili" in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I've written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there's a lantern in the servant's hand
and I can't contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn't know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I'm floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn't know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren't about to paint it that way
I didn't know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn't know I loved clouds
whether I'm under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn't know I loved sparks
I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

Nazim Hikmet
19 April 1962 Moscow

Translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing

From Selected Poetry by Nazim Hikmet. Translation copyright © 1986 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk.
Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc. 1

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Blogger harlequinpan said...

i do love these!i know.

29 September, 2007 09:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such treasures you bring us, Lily! Sorry to have a pragmatic question for such a lovely post - that last painting is by who? Hay?

29 September, 2007 09:36  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hp--yes, thank you. one can see it in your work.

in yours too, christine. yes, i believe it's j.(james) hamilton hay. but i can't find that particular image again.

29 September, 2007 12:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had not heard of him before - thanks! Check this out:

Sunrise in the Lake District

29 September, 2007 16:22  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh my! it's wonderful. thank you.

29 September, 2007 17:48  
Blogger here today, gone tomorrow said...

The pleasure of this blog! You have no idea...

30 September, 2007 05:41  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

from this side too. thank you.

30 September, 2007 09:14  
Blogger Joan DaGradi Studio said...

Thank you!
You made my day.

02 October, 2007 07:36  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, that makes mine joan. you're welcome, and thanks to you too.

02 October, 2007 08:26  
Blogger zoe tati said...

thise reflections of trees in the dark lake reminds me of early Piet Mondrian -

allso his paintings of trees and Chrysanthemum,
offers this flavor due to his engagement in
Theosophy and its interpretation of life.

allways lovely to se you blog
zoe tati

02 October, 2007 13:42  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you so much, zoe--those paintings are marvelous. i had never thought of mondriaan that way. i now look forwart to viewing more.


02 October, 2007 17:16  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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