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from SWAP

Looking at You


Upturning the turtle, little girl runs away

For the first time, turtle sees sky


trans. by Raman Mundair




Call Centre



for the day you met school friends for the first time

please dial your lucky number

for the times you ran tirelessly around the playground

press all the numbers at random

for the steamed-up windows of restaurants in countryside

dial the year of the last family summer holiday


everybody has times they're ashamed of

do not tell the numbers you pick for these to anyone

for the çay and poğaça breakfasts you had on the university lawn

put the receiver down and go out onto the balcony

if you wish to complain about time flying furiously past

please press down hard on the button

if you realise that you don't remember your granddad exactly as he was

look in the mirror


for the smell of dusty books in second-hand bookstores

say the third letter of an illiterate labourer’s name

for your neighbourhood tailor who was found dead in rags

please hold


for that unpredictable moment

that you touched the neck of a woman in your sleep,

dial the same number over and over again

after the beep


the day after the break-up

write in your notebook one hundred times

'I am never going to fall in love again'




trans. by Bill Herbert





I call you honeyovsky

didn't we learn to love from Russian novels


the first night you slept beside me

is in my mind, written in cuneiform script

no, no, as a cave painting


at the start I let you wait a while

forgive me for that


for some time now  I've hidden your name

you don’t know why


the scarf you were knitting was left half finished

let it be, until next winter

so that your loneliness is only partial, also


that green apple you gave to me one morning

let it be a secret password between us


and let your eyebrows grow

the pretentiousness scares me,

just as it does with architecture and poetry


your legs are full of childhood wounds

we make love at a canter

we love each other,

patient as your growing hair


but I still confuse

the long nicknames in Russian novels


trans. by Richard Gywn



Imagined Conversation


you ask why -

perhaps because of a few white strands from your hair

like a scar

or a royal crest,  

like terrible memories or fabulous advice,

a difficult day, a sleepless sunrise

all trailing across your cheek.


you ask why -

because your proud fingers can become playful in a instant

I’m not talking about some magician’s trick

but taking off a tight blouse, a shirt still underneath.


you ask why - because your constantly-escaping hair

is the crumple in every fairytale sheet;

because an adopted princess is what I’m really looking for,

a frog that stays a frog after being kissed.

you do know fairytales are just for kids?

and I'm not a child anymore.


what else? because of your single black dress of which you are so proud,

the large naughty smile that you hand out like flyers,

because that dress and the kitten rubbing against your legs both suit you

– was there even a kitten? –

and because I don’t know

if I will get scared in the night

by your lips like a river

which flows in two contrary directions

or mess up

or fall like an idiot for you


I’ll tell you only once

don’t ask me again

my heart pounded softly 

good bye.


trans. by Sian Melangell Dafyd



Am I to you?


Am I far away to you? Not much

Bus plus ferry plus tram


I am forbidden to you. Don’t exaggerate

Whenever I look in your eyes

The other end of a recently dug tunnel


I am child to you, let it be

I like to be a nuisance when I’m with you


I am anxious to you, I know

I make a fuss sometimes, Miss


I am inclined to you, don’t move

Like one wave merging into another wave


I am night and day to you

The wicked fox of hesitation


I am wistful to you

We haven’t met each other too late, have we?


I am maybe trouble to you

Will you manage to start again from zero?


I am a blank white paper to you

The smell of a newly sharpened pencil


I am now to you

The enthusiasm of a watch that’s just been repaired


I am afterwards to you, always to you, you to you


I am ‘let’s go’ to you

Are you sure?


I am a basic question put

To you


trans. by Robyn Marsack




Decoration Suggestions, or What is Important in a House


we need a single bed (I guess 80 cm is enough)

a small airport (for the living room)

a 1:100 model of hell (my place there is guaranteed anyway)

a garden full of untrimmed plants (this is for the kitchen)


we also need an old cuckoo clock: we have more than enough time to waste

a broken radiator: it seems we cannot save the world; it can symbolize this

a secret nook: so I can leave notes to you if I die


and a polygraph machine: so that I can take tests all the time, hah.

a trust machine: we collect it and hand it out by Yeni Cami

a worry machine: it can wipe clean our post-work blues

an envy machine: it could spice up our cooking

a fear machine: we hug each other like two dust particles that collide in the air

a guilt machine: we already keep each other warm; there’s no need for this


a child machine: as a height marker for every living being occupied by learning

a time machine: after visiting our first date we deliver gifts to our future selves

And then we come back to our own kingdom

present time machine: mirror mirror on the wall, tell me


a slave machine: we clean up after ourselves

a nail polish machine: an exception, for you

a sleep machine: we write essays on a glass of water at your bedside

a tranquility machine: the rabbit I pulled out of the hat

a joy machine: coin operated

a ticket machine: a travel bag too full to close and your nakedness winking at me in the mirror


A machine machine: a postcard to celebrate the complexity of nature

A polygraph machine: we can connect each other and watch the universe from a bird’s eye view

A you-machine:

it could measure the amount of purple in an unfinished painting

                  or beep when my feet touch the seabed swimming back in

                  we’re in no rush, it could keep stirring the tea

                  or perhaps arrange a date you’ll be late for, so I can enjoy waiting for you


you, (as a dream of a Platonist) who remains you as years pass

you, the repetition that floods in fast-flowing rivers (thanks to the good fortune of a Marxist)

you, a drill bit into my thoughts

you, a black box of  what I have lived


what is important in a house?

we don’t even need happiness

just the rattling of a baby


trans. by James Vella





revolutions too

like grand plans

can’t be plotted in great detail


like punctual trains

offer peace

and never look back once set off?


on every occasion

forge a connection between us that I can’t name


like close friends

are also useful in covering our own defects


like babies screaming in joy

never tire


like me

they - in truth - don’t like crowds


like all of us

it is a lie that they wish the best for everyone


like all gods

they are sure they are capable of creating the world in a few days


like the relationships

you suddenly find yourself a slave to


like women

you can only suppose you understand them


like a lover

they can only let you down


like a platonic love

they are beautiful after all


trans. by James Vella




A List of Items to Sace



the chocolate bar I left unfinished, as an empty promise of happiness


pepper spray I was hit with last summer, in cubic litres and in exact volume


the total sum money I didn’t give to the beggars, in order to make myself uncomfortable


all the wine I’ve ever drank, filling a lake


and a particular woman, as a photo album of the moments she touched me



the last images held in place on the cornea of the dead,  saved as jpg or pdf


the last voices they heard, saved as screams


what they last touched, stirred in with love making


what they last tasted, deposited into the bank


what they last smelled, in a perfume bottle



everything I’ve ever said, written on empty cigarette boxes

to be read along with their warning notes


everything I’ve lived through, in coins

to be sold under the counter in Kadıköy Bazaar


and to fall in love, aged in oak barrels

some part donated to the Society for Protection of Children

and the rest downed at the bar


trans. by James Vella



from JUNE 16

(June Crossroads is a series of poems 'based on true events' during the revolutionary days in Turkey in 1970)


Ulus Newspaper Occupation


brecht would ask

what is the difference between


he who desires without understanding

and he who understands but keeps quiet


according to beckett

the biggest opportunity has already been missed


according to the union

this was not planned


according to received wisdom

people believe in an unattainable beauty 


according to the revolutionaries

every revolutionary action was legitimate


according to my grandma

I should let all these things go


what I really want to know is

whether the reporters and typesetters

were in conflict with the occupiers at first?


according to the typesetters

they inspired the tragic end of a book

which was destined to be confiscated


according to the reporters

this was a news flash that had to be censored


according to a table 

it was strange to be talked down to


according to the printing plate

it was almost comfortable to be barricaded in


a grey bearded giant

was serving tea in the middle of all this


according to their worst fears

it would all end badly


according to their feelings

they were already locked in an ever-contracting conga


if we go back to brecht

he would say it all depends on the occupier

before lighting his cigar


trans. by Richard Gywn



The Worker Who Comes across His Son in the Barricade of Soldiers


my throat has dried

but it doesn't seem to become quiet


my throat is calloused

for carriying placards in silver trays


my throat is a scary rope-walker

it doesn’t know that it is possible to stand on the rope

only by marching forward

in front of the barricade of soldiers


my throat is scared out of its wits

while soldier’s helmets

are waving by our wind


my throat is blind

isn’t it my own son

hidden in a uniform

indicating me with his rifle


my throat is racing with my legs

blusters like children gang

while leaping up over the barricade


with my throat spread wide

I hug my son


my throat is knotted

keeps the joy to itself


my throat is slitted

the blood of five other

leaking asunder


trans. by Richard Gywn



Mehmet and Osman from Cevizli Cigarette Factory


mehmet grew another hectic mehmet

when he became a father


mehmet already owned another shy mehmet

when he got married


he also contracted a sceptical mehmet

urged by necessity


all the mehmets were in fine fettle

next to him stood osman who had many osmans

that mehmet didn’t know


was there a self-sacrificing mehmet?

– mehmet wasn’t sure –

but when a gun was pointed at his group of friends

he didn’t hesitate


secret osman of osman with his police ID in his pocket

held the hand of a tobacco worker for the first time

 – the dead mehmet of mehmet –


with sorrow for his widow’s loss of her mehmet

stubborn mehmet walked up to taksim square

he tore up his last regrets

when osman submitted his letter of resignation


it was beautiful to be obstinate in the face of death

even after having died


trans. by Richard Gywn



How the Four Workers Were Released from Eyüp Police Station


lock up, clattering, dirty yellow light.

how would you describe the ones inside?

a) as waiting in the cell keeping their shirts clean

b) as primping their hair with regretful hands

c) as knowing everything would be easier if they gave up their beliefs

d) all of the above


for ten thousand years, for many decades, until yesterday.

if we believe the history books they:

a) avoid eye contact with each other

b) turn sneak or rat when frightened

c) inspire legendary heroes even if afraid


outside the police station, impatient whispers.

the crowd was looking very different: why?

a) a most unusual festival was underway

a) a story was circulating that the king’s ass has been kicked

a) someone mentioned the coward lion of oz

a) because fingers clicked before the dance began


what happened next?

a) handcuffs were unlocked with a little-known catchphrase

b) a new name had been sewn on their still pristine shirts

c) or, as actually happened, they scattered into the poisoned streets of Istanbul


trans. by Richard Gywn




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