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Written by Nazim Hikmet | Create an image from this poem

Things I Didnt 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 Peredelkino
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 Koktebele 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 19 April 1962 Moscow
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The Strangest Creature On Earth

 You're like a scorpion, my brother,
you live in cowardly darkness
 like a scorpion.
You're like a sparrow, my brother, always in a sparrow's flutter.
You're like a clam, my brother, closed like a clam, content, And you're frightening, my brother, like the mouth of an extinct volcano.
Not one, not five-- unfortunately, you number millions.
You're like a sheep, my brother: when the cloaked drover raises his stick, you quickly join the flock and run, almost proudly, to the slaughterhouse.
I mean you're strangest creature on earth-- even stranger than the fish that couldn't see the ocean for the water.
And the oppression in this world is thanks to you.
And if we're hungry, tired, covered with blood, and still being crushed like grapes for our wine, the fault is yours-- I can hardly bring myself to say it, but most of the fault, my dear brother, is yours.
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Letters From A Man In Solitary

 1
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know, I don't have a pearl-handled jackknife (they won't give me anything sharp) or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard, but I'm not allowed to see the sky overhead.
.
.
How many others are in this place? I don't know.
I'm alone far from them, they're all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring, my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know, that awful, always off-key voice of mine touches me so that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan lost in the snow in those old sad stories, my heart -- with moist blue eyes and a little red runny rose -- wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn't make me blush that right now I'm this weak, this selfish, this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it's this barred window, this earthen jug, these four walls, which for months have kept me from hearing another human voice.
It's five o'clock, my dear.
Outside, with its dryness, eerie whispers, mud roof, and lame, skinny horse standing motionless in infinity -- I mean, it's enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief -- outside, with all its machinery and all its art, a plains night comes down red on treeless space.
Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape stretched out before me like the body of a hard man, will suddenly be filled with stars.
We'll reach the inevitable end once more, which is to say the stage is set again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
Me, the man inside, once more I'll exhibit my customary talent, and singing an old-fashioned lament in the reedy voice of my childhood, once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart to hear you inside my head, so far away, as if I were watching you in a smoky, broken mirror.
.
.
2 It's spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It's spring, my dear wife, the plain outside sparkles.
.
.
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs, the water jug no longer freezes, and in the morning sun floods the concrete.
.
.
The sun-- every day till noon now it comes and goes from me, flashing off and on.
.
.
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls, the glass of the barred window catches fire, and it's night outside, a cloudless spring night.
.
.
And inside this is spring's darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom, with its glittering scales and fiery eyes, possesses the man inside especially in spring.
.
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I know this from experience, my dear wife, from experience.
.
.
3 Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life by how far away the sky is, how blue and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into, no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me.
.
.
I am happy.
Written by Nazim Hikmet | Create an image from this poem

On Living

 I

Living is no laughing matter:
 you must live with great seriousness
 like a squirrel, for example--
 I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
 I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter: you must take it seriously, so much so and to such a degree that, for example, your hands tied behind your back, your back to the wall, or else in a laboratory in your white coat and safety glasses, you can die for people-- even for people whose faces you've never seen, even though you know living is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees-- and not for your children, either, but because although you fear death you don't believe it, because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
II Let's say you're seriously ill, need surgery-- which is to say we might not get from the white table.
Even though it's impossible not to feel sad about going a little too soon, we'll still laugh at the jokes being told, we'll look out the window to see it's raining, or still wait anxiously for the latest newscast .
.
.
Let's say we're at the front-- for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day, we might fall on our face, dead.
We'll know this with a curious anger, but we'll still worry ourselves to death about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let's say we're in prison and close to fifty, and we have eighteen more years, say, before the iron doors will open.
We'll still live with the outside, with its people and animals, struggle and wind-- I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are, we must live as if we will never die.
III This earth will grow cold, a star among stars and one of the smallest, a gilded mote on blue velvet-- I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day, not like a block of ice or a dead cloud even but like an empty walnut it will roll along in pitch-black space .
.
.
You must grieve for this right now --you have to feel this sorrow now-- for the world must be loved this much if you're going to say "I lived" .
.
.
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Letter To My Wife

 11-11-1933
 Bursa Prison
My one and only!
Your last letter says:
"My head is throbbing,
 my heart is stunned!"
You say:
"If they hang you,
 if I lose you,
 I'll die!"
You'll live, my dear--
my memory will vanish like black smoke in the wind.
Of course you'll live, red-haired lady of my heart: in the twentieth century grief lasts at most a year.
Death-- a body swinging from a rope.
My heart can't accept such a death.
But you can bet if some poor gypsy's hairy black spidery hand slips a noose around my neck, they'll look in vain for fear in Nazim's blue eyes! In the twilight of my last morning I will see my friends and you, and I'll go to my grave regretting nothing but an unfinished song.
.
.
My wife! Good-hearted, golden, eyes sweeter than honey--my bee! Why did I write you they want to hang me? The trial has hardly begun, and they don't just pluck a man's head like a turnip.
Look, forget all this.
If you have any money, buy me some flannel underwear: my sciatica is acting up again.
And don't forget, a prisoner's wife must always think good thoughts.
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Optimistic Man

 as a child he never plucked the wings off flies
he didn't tie tin cans to cats' tails
or lock beetles in matchboxes
or stomp anthills
he grew up
and all those things were done to him
I was at his bedside when he died
he said read me a poem
about the sun and the sea
about nuclear reactors and satellites
about the greatness of humanity
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A Sad State Of Freedom

 You waste the attention of your eyes, 
the glittering labour of your hands, 
and knead the dough enough for dozens of loaves 
of which you'll taste not a morsel; 
you are free to slave for others-- 
you are free to make the rich richer.
The moment you're born they plant around you mills that grind lies lies to last you a lifetime.
You keep thinking in your great freedom a finger on your temple free to have a free conscience.
Your head bent as if half-cut from the nape, your arms long, hanging, your saunter about in your great freedom: you're free with the freedom of being unemployed.
You love your country as the nearest, most precious thing to you.
But one day, for example, they may endorse it over to America, and you, too, with your great freedom-- you have the freedom to become an air-base.
You may proclaim that one must live not as a tool, a number or a link but as a human being-- then at once they handcuff your wrists.
You are free to be arrested, imprisoned and even hanged.
There's neither an iron, wooden nor a tulle curtain in your life; there's no need to choose freedom: you are free.
But this kind of freedom is a sad affair under the stars.
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Autobiography

 I was born in 1902
I never once went back to my birthplace
I don't like to turn back
at three I served as a pasha's grandson in Aleppo
at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University
at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party's guest
and I've been a poet since I was fourteen
some people know all about plants some about fish
 I know separation
some people know the names of the stars by heart
 I recite absences
I've slept in prisons and in grand hotels
I've known hunger even a hunger strike and there's almost no food
 I haven't tasted
at thirty they wanted to hang me
at forty-eight to give me the Peace Prize
 which they did
at thirty-six I covered four square meters of concrete in half a year
at fifty-nine I flew from Prague to Havana in eighteen hours
I never saw Lenin I stood watch at his coffin in '24
in '61 the tomb I visit is his books
they tried to tear me away from my party
 it didn't work
nor was I crushed under the falling idols
in '51 I sailed with a young friend into the teeth of death
in '52 I spent four months flat on my back with a broken heart
 waiting to die
I was jealous of the women I loved
I didn't envy Charlie Chaplin one bit
I deceived my women
I never talked my friends' backs
I drank but not every day
I earned my bread money honestly what happiness
out of embarrassment for others I lied
I lied so as not to hurt someone else
 but I also lied for no reason at all
I've ridden in trains planes and cars
most people don't get the chance
I went to opera
 most people haven't even heard of the opera
and since '21 I haven't gone to the places most people visit
 mosques churches temples synagogues sorcerers
 but I've had my coffee grounds read
my writings are published in thirty or forty languages
 in my Turkey in my Turkish they're banned
cancer hasn't caught up with me yet
and nothing says it will
I'll never be a prime minister or anything like that
and I wouldn't want such a life
nor did I go to war
or burrow in bomb shelters in the bottom of the night
and I never had to take to the road under diving planes
but I fell in love at almost sixty
in short comrades
even if today in Berlin I'm croaking of grief
 I can say I've lived like a human being
and who knows
 how much longer I'll live
 what else will happen to me


 This autobiography was written 
 in east Berlin on 11 September 1961
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Last Will And Testament

 Comrades, if I don't live to see the day
-- I mean,if I die before freedom comes --
take me away
and bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia.
The worker Osman whom Hassan Bey ordered shot can lie on one side of me, and on the other side the martyr Aysha, who gave birth in the rye and died inside of forty days.
Tractors and songs can pass below the cemetery -- in the dawn light, new people, the smell of burnt gasoline, fields held in common, water in canals, no drought or fear of the police.
Of course, we won't hear those songs: the dead lie stretched out underground and rot like black branches, deaf, dumb, and blind under the earth.
But, I sang those songs before they were written, I smelled the burnt gasoline before the blueprints for the tractors were drawn.
As for my neighbors, the worker Osman and the martyr Aysha, they felt the great longing while alive, maybe without even knowing it.
Comrades, if I die before that day, I mean -- and it's looking more and more likely -- bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia, and if there's one handy, a plane tree could stand at my head, I wouldn't need a stone or anything.
Moscow, Barviha Hospital
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Some Advice To Those Who Will Serve Time In Prison

 If instead of being hanged by the neck
 you're thrown inside
 for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
 if you do ten or fifteen years
 apart from the time you have left,
you won't say,
 "Better I had swung from the end of a rope
 like a flag" --
You'll put your foot down and live.
It may not be a pleasure exactly, but it's your solemn duty to live one more day to spite the enemy.
Part of you may live alone inside, like a tone at the bottom of a well.
But the other part must be so caught up in the flurry of the world that you shiver there inside when outside, at forty days' distance, a leaf moves.
To wait for letters inside, to sing sad songs, or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling is sweet but dangerous.
Look at your face from shave to shave, forget your age, watch out for lice and for spring nights, and always remember to eat every last piece of bread-- also, don't forget to laugh heartily.
And who knows, the woman you love may stop loving you.
Don't say it's no big thing: it's like the snapping of a green branch to the man inside.
To think of roses and gardens inside is bad, to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest, and I also advise weaving and making mirrors.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass ten or fifteen years inside and more -- you can, as long as the jewel on the left side of your chest doesn't lose it's luster! May 1949
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Regarding Art

 Sometimes, I, too, tell the ah's
of my heart one by one
like the blood-red beads
of a ruby rosary strung
 on strands of golden hair!

But my
poetry's muse
takes to the air
on wings made of steel
like the I-beams
 of my suspension bridges!

I don't pretend
 the nightingale's lament
to the rose isn't easy on the ears.
.
.
But the language that really speaks to me are Beethoven sonatas played on copper, iron, wood, bone, and catgut.
.
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You can "have" galloping off in a cloud of dust! Me, I wouldn't trade for the purest-bred Arabian steed the sixth mph of my iron horse running on iron tracks! Sometimes my eye is caught like a big dumb fly by the masterly spider webs in the corners of my room.
But I really look up to the seventy-seven-story, reinforced-concrete mountains my blue-shirted builders create! Were I to meet the male beauty "young Adonis, god of Byblos," on a bridge, I'd probably never notice; but I can't help staring into my philosopher's glassy eyes or my fireman's square face red as a sweating sun! Though I can smoke third-class cigarettes filled on my electric workbenches, I can't roll tobacco - even the finest- in paper by hand and smoke it! I didn't -- "wouldn't" -- trade my wife dressed in her leather cap and jacket for Eve's nakedness! Maybe I don't have a "poetic soul"? What can I do when I love my own children more than mother Nature's!
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Today Is Sunday

 Today is Sunday.
For the first time they took me out into the sun today.
And for the first time in my life I was aghast that the sky is so far away and so blue and so vast I stood there without a motion.
Then I sat on the ground with respectful devotion leaning against the white wall.
Who cares about the waves with which I yearn to roll Or about strife or freedom or my wife right now.
The soil, the sun and me.
.
.
I feel joyful and how.
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Our Eyes

 Our eyes
 are limpid
 drops of water.
In each drop exists a tiny sign of our genius which has given life to cold iron.
Our eyes are limpid drops of water merged absolutely in the Ocean that you could hardly recognize the drop in a block of ice in a boiling pan.
The masterpiece of these eyes the fulfillment of their genius the living iron.
In these eyes filled with limpid pure tears had failed to emerge from the infinite Ocean if the strength had dispersed, we could never have mated the dynamo with the turbine, never have moved those steel mountains in water easily as if made of hollow wood.
The masterpiece of these eyes the fulfillment of their genius of our unified labour the living iron.
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Its This Way

 I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.
My eyes can't get enough of the trees-- they're so hopeful, so green.
A sunny road runs through the mulberries, I'm at the window of the prison infirmary.
I can't smell the medicines-- carnations must be blooming nearby.
It's this way: being captured is beside the point, the point is not to surrender.
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Lion In An Iron Cage

 Look at the lion in the iron cage,
look deep into his eyes:
 like two naked steel daggers
 they sparkle with anger.
But he never loses his dignity although his anger comes and goes goes and comes.
You couldn't find a place for a collar round his thick, furry mane.
Although the scars of a whip still burn on his yellow back his long legs stretch and end in the shape of two copper claws.
The hairs on his mane rise one by one around his proud head.
His hatred comes and goes goes and comes .
.
.
The shadow of my brother on the wall of the dungeon moves up and down up and down.