[alt.desert-storm] Lines of Peace

jack@cs.glasgow.ac.uk (Jack Campin) (03/02/91)

[ This is from Adrian Mitchell in the New Statesman, 1 March 1991. ]


In my ordinary mail came a most extraordinary message.  It was from Ataol
Behramoglu, a famous Turkish poet and an old friend of mine.  He enclosed a
poem.  That's what I hoped for.  Poets exchange poems, especially in bad
times.  But this poem was not his, not anyone's.

It is about 90 lines long.  Ataol explains: "We, some 81 Turkish poets,
have made this poems with lines written separately by each of us.  The
entire text has been published by the Turkish press.  Among the poets
collaborating are eminent masters and almost all the distinguished names of
the new generation.  I hope that you will find a way to present this text
to the British public."

The concept was startling.  For 81 poets to abandon their autonomy over
their own words?  For 81 poets to work together in any cause?  Some sort of

The poem itself - LINES OF PEACE - is stunning, even in translation.
Different voices are clearly discernible.  It is like being in the middle
of a passionate, articulate crowd of people, each one trying to touch you.
It is different from any poem by a single voice.  It is like an amazing
patchwork quilt.  I have taken the liberty of cutting the poem by more than
half, retaining the lines that work best in translation.  All you need to
know is that the name Baris means "Peace".  Read it aloud, trying to hear
the individual voices, trying to hear the harmony that they create together.

Lines of peace

I come and go through doors without houses
my heart a violet amidst the world
naphtha and blood, a festering taint on the corpses of lilies
between two darknesses where i cannot even draw a pocket-knife
like a daffodil in snow, like a bird on thorns
a mind that burns that is burned going to ash
feeble mind seeking refuge in the close-knit web of the moment,
with the clatter of applause
rears the mother of all wars; oh you Assyria!

my limping mad heart, this is not the onset i had wished for
who was it told me that mankind will have a noble future
eyes of flame broke through the flames to recollect
the white eyes of children...
i cannot hear the rustling of the leaf while the forest roars

to be or not to be, tis all i remember

life and men bleed, the breath of death on our necks
we wish you a nice war, dear spectators,
just you go on being spectators
this is the age of live murder, but blurred is the face of the murderer
"don't you go and neglect your homework now"
poems do not forget, even if death should "come on _live_"

war, smells of ash inside and out
war, a dagger with two broken edges
one can die bleeding others' blood
now i think only of the return of children named War and Victory
children re-named in the name of death...

those who try to justify war, saying it is as old as mankind
should know: i praise peace, saying it is as new as mankind
i expose my secret roses together with a bleeding Middle East afternoon
as soon as the fearless flowers of the fields accost him
the warrior will drop on his knees
oh you guardians of hatred and pride...

what does the dead soldier say?
he says he's dead, he says it "live"
lava flows into all the rivers on earth instead of roses...
peace is the work of strong men
war, the courage of the cowardly
corpses are the insignia of this country
one side of me is grown up on military tunes
the other side is now all child

the earth asked you, what have you done with your children?

i was unkind to Baris so war broke out
paper children sink in the gulf of the black carnation
it was war, the child's milk glass broke
who killed the blue, the first bird in it?...

blood ruins, sand ruins, my heart the Middle East, sand dunes
don't enter my lines with your loud shadows
continent-gamble played with bone dice...

i am a possible human being, i loathe presidents and generals...

as the days pass between the Rock and the Book
i am floundering in the bloody waters of the Euphrates
the taste of the morning honey roars in our depths
i want to make love with war; if only war would make peace
together with that cormorant in its ocean-long coffin of petroleum

darling, protect me from this world plunging into blood
like songs of salvation that strike one down
peace is our struggle
peace, sublime tranquillity of long nights of love...

it is fire in god's name, in god's name it is peace...

the day i first kissed you, i wished never to die, did i tell you?
oh war, when did they first kiss you?

(translated by Oruc Aruoba)


[ Followups to soc.culture.turkish.
  Somebody post the original PLEASE. ]
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