Nazim Hikmet

                        Since I Was Thrown Inside

Since I was thrown inside,
                        the earth has orbited the sun ten times.

If you ask it:
            "Not even worth mentioning,
                     a microscopic time.
If you ask me:
            "Ten years of my life."

I had a pencil
                     the year I was thrown inside.
I used it all up in a week.
If you ask it:
            "A whole life."
If you ask me:
            "Come on now, just one week."

Since I was thrown inside,
                        Osman, doing time for murder,
                                    finished his seven and a half years and left,
                                    drifted around for a while,
                                    was thrown back inside for smuggling,
                                    did six months and was re-released,
                                    his letter came yesterday, he's married,
                                    his child will be born in the spring.

They're ten years old now,
         the children who were conceived
                  the year I was thrown inside.
And that year's trembling, long-legged colts
         have turned into confident, wide-rumped mares.
But the olive seeds are still olive seeds,
                           they're still children.

New squares have cropped up in my far-away city
                                    since I was thrown inside.
And my loved ones
            are living on a street I don't know
                                    in a house I've never seen.

Bread was white, fluffy as cotton
                        the year I was thrown inside.
Then it was rationed
and here, inside, the people beat each other
            for a pitch-black, fist-sized piece.
Now it flows freely again,
but dark and tasteless.

The year I was thrown inside,
            the second war hadn't started yet,
the ovens at Dachau weren't lit,
the atom bomb hadn't dropped on Hiroshima.

Time flowed like the blood of a child whose throat's been slit.
Then that chapter officially ended,
and now the U.S. dollar speaks of a third.

Yet, in spite of everything, the days have shone
                        since I was thrown inside,
and from the edges of darkness,
            the people, pressing their heavy hands to the pavement,
                                                have begun to rise.

Since I was thrown inside
                        the earth has orbited the sun ten times
and just as passionately I repeat
                                 what I wrote
                                       the year I was thrown inside:
"The people who are plentiful as ants on the ground
                                 as fish in the sea
                                             as birds in the sky,
who are cowardly, courageous,
                        ignorant, supreme
                                                and childlike,
it is they who crush
            and create,
it is but their exploits sung in songs."
                           And as for the rest,
                                    my ten-year incarceration, for instance,
                                                         it's all meaningless words.

                                           Turkish; trans. Deniz Perin

Nazim Hikmet, Turkish, trans. Deniz Perin.