Two Poems by Tarik Günersel

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Tarik Günersel. Photo provided by the author.

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he is currently a columnist for Sampsonia Way. Read two of Tarık’s poems below:

_______

Hunter

                  -based on the life of
                  the 17. century ottoman Sultan Mehmed
                  IV-

I could accept being anybody.
         I could accept being anything.
                                    But myself.
I shouldered the state for years.
         I’ve borne the past.
                  I’ve borne the future.
                           I cannot bear myself.
If fate exists,
                  why is there conscience?
My God,
            I wish I could dissolve
                                             in your infinity!
Only in your infinity could mine dissolve.

How crowded
                  is this solititude!
                                    Go! Leave me alone!
Take all victories! I simply don’t care!

Take all gifts, treasures, and thrones!

Take fame and glory! Take all history!
Take the whole world! The stars and heaven!
Just give me my hawk!

Give me my father’s arms, my son’s first steps!

Oh God, here are so many I don’t want
         and nobody that I do.
                  Except her.
                              Come,

you’ve been serving me for two years.
You are the only soul I see;
you cannot hear or speak to me.
And there’s no pen or paper here.
Nor can you read the things I write in the air.
Which land are you from?
                  What’s your name?
                                    Your tongue?
                                                      Your faith?
Yet it’s as if you hear and understand all I say.
Even my silences.
My son’s fourteen today.
         I miss him
                  just as I miss my father
         on the thirtieth anniversary of his murder.

         And like everybody
my son, too, is far from me. Sultan,
he’s a prisoner in his palace
                                 as I am here.
They say I know a lot.
         I do. True. Without understanding
                                                      anything.

I want to go hunting! I want to go hunting! How many
doors are there? How many locks? Guards? Guns?
How many obstacles must I overcome? Huh?
I wish they would kill me! I want to go hunting!
Is nature still there outside?
Are there still trees, birds, insects, deer?
Does my composer Itri still write songs?
Or has all this ceased to exist? Huh?
Are there only the throne, the treasure and the wars left?
I want to go hunting!
Come on, be of some use, woman: Strangle me!
This bow has no string, haven’t you any?
Are your hands too small for my throat?
Come on, take me out hunting!
I don’t care how many doors, locks or guards there are!
Free me from the limits of my body! Take me out for a hunt!
Let my hawk take me there where dead birds go!
Strangle me -as they strangled my father
when I was seven
with my consent!
Be my hawk!

                                                                           1993

_______

Fire

         a fire, how great it would be if these mountains united in a
single flame,
         I’m longing for a fire,

         birth songs on my lips, I’ll surge forward, forehead aflame,
         I’ll put a fingerprint of fire on my cheeks and show them to
burning ants saying look nature has kissed me,
         warmth in my bones, I’ll find a coal black stick and waving it
say here’s a rabbit’s foot
                  and say prayers for fertility,
         I’ll say prayers that will idolize the ceaselessness of the fire,
prayers which will ensure the unending burning of the trees,
         I’ll engrave the immortal rhythm of the flames on my most
sensitive brain cells,
         you know a fire has a drone, I believe I’ll be able to find the
music behind it,
                  in my prayers I can almost hear that music,
         I wonder how my friends will manage,
         we’ll probably hang our greetings on flames and write them on
white clouds,
         maybe some will write letters of complaint, I’ll reserve ashen
clouds for them,
         will anyone be furious with me, I guess so, naturally
         I’ll spare pink clouds for them as a surprise,
         such an important fire will have dignity, the flames will have
an elegant attitude, refined, nothing crazy,
         perhaps they’ll get involved in a heated discussion about which
trees will take priority,

         no that would be too much, a fire must have a manly
ruggedness, it should be slightly distant,
         my eyes will eventually get used to the glare, then I’ll find
some companions and dance with them,
         in ecstasy, my feet will leave the ground
                           and I’ll dance above the flames,
         I’m sure a reluctant flame will fall in love with me and belly-
dance,
         revealing herself on the hard body of a plane tree, I’ll look at
her secretly,
                  out of the corner of my eye,
         at a time like this I wouldn’t wish to be tied to a single flame,
I’ll run away like the god pan to places unknown to her,
         I know she’ll try to finish her duty soon, in order to die, for me,
         it’s a pity but such things are normal in an adventure like this,
         I want to set fire to my hair by a cypress, I’ll find the most
elegant, the most mysterious one in the forests, it’ll be like laying my
head on a feather pillow,
         o nature either take me or give yourself to me,
         I want such a fire that all the forests of the world will be
hallowed, now I burst into a song of birth, I will ensure the continuity
of this fire, I’ve written prayers that guarantee the continuous growth of
branches,
                  I want to be a fire,
         now I’m going to anoint myself with fire,
         and put a handful on my cheeks and show them to burning ants
saying look nature has kissed me

                                                                           1974

About the Author

Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg. His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom. His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.

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