Friday, January 17, 2014

CUCUMBER



CUCUMBER

NAZIM HIKMET


(trans Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk)

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and still coming down hard:
it hasn't let up all morning.
We're in the kitchen.
On the table, on the oilcloth, spring —
on the table there's a very tender young cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a daisy.

We're sitting around the table staring at it.
It softly lights up our faces,
and the very air smells fresh.
We're sitting around the table staring at it,
amazed
thoughtful
optimistic.

We're as if in a dream.
On the table, on the oilcloth, hope —
on the table, beautiful days,
a cloud seeded with a green sun,
an emerald crowd impatient and on its way,
loves blooming openly —
on the table, there on the oilcloth, a very tender young cucumber,
pebbly and fresh as a daisy.

The snow is knee-deep in the courtyard
and coming down hard.
It hasn't let up all morning.



The greatest modern Turkish poet of twentieth century, NazimHikmet (1902-1963) once wrote from prison, ``In the twentieth century / grief lasts / at most a year.'' First jailed in 1924 at the age of 22 for working on a leftist magazine, he spent 18 years incarcerated. Hikmet was awarded the World Peace Prize in 1950, the same year as he gained his release from jail, only to be exiled from Turkey in 1951 for the last 13 years of his life. 

The poet evidently never lost his faith in social justice. His love of life apparently didn't weaken, and his poems resonate with its power: ``Shot through ten years of bondage like a bullet, / . . . my heart is still the same heart, my head still the same head.'' But to consider Hikmet a political poet only is to miss his gift, and a temperament infected with joy. In  "Occupation'' he writes, ``In the afternoon heat I pick olives, / the leaves the loveliest of greens: / I'm light from head to toe.'' The translations by Blasing and Mutlu Konak convey the power and originality of the work. As Hikmet grew, he delivered a richness and humanity unparalleled in its freedom from bitterness in poems like ``Things I Didn't Know I Loved,'' ``After Getting Out of Prison'' and ``The Last Bus.''

The  poet  beautifully captures a hopeful and dreamy atmosphere in this quiet poem when a family sits around a table and watches a tender cucumber. The admiration of a cucumber because of its smell, its freshness and color leads us to much more tender and sensitive feelings inside us. It evokes a million memories of the salad days of life. How beautifully the poet ruminates on the emerald cucumber (with its teeming seeds) and hopes it to become the green sun in their lives too. How wondrously the poet has used 'repetition' as a way to enhance the poetic message .This poem itself is worth an emerald.






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