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Things I Didn't Know I Loved Analysis

Author: poem of Nazim Hikmet Type: poem Views: 15

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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


                               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




Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)


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