Borrowed Like Grief by Haydar Ergülen


Translated from the Turkish by Derick Mattern


Once poetry was like a faithful hound
whenever I was sad he’d sense it
and come comfort me

They’re old dogs now, my poems
they prick neither ear nor heart


That’s how wounded I was in those days
only a solitary creature could’ve understood

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the animals
it’s that humans don’t know shit about life

I understood then—the human essence is a beast


Some pluck words from trees
some wrench poems from stones
some love from wastelands…
I from no one…

All through the night I’d stay that way
like a disconsolate poet
slumped in a sleazy dive

Neither poetry nor grief are mine
if they leave behind even a shadow
it would be enough


You’re a street leading out to the sea
I’m a house heading to the capital
old smoke, old coal, old rails
between us passed a beautiful darkness


Rain’s when’s best to go looking for poets
and best to ask them about the apple, about the secret
otherwise the apple, the secret, the poet
best be forgotten in the rain and best “ask nothing
of those who keep silent”

I owe you an apple
the apple knows it and you don’t


Words grieve being-as-paper
the pain of absence thin as a sentence

A tree grieves for its leaves
love burns even before the love song ignites

The rain grieves in murmuring
an orphan’s lost even his wooden house

Love grieves like a tenant
who settles in but never down
who’s housed but homeless

I have no grief but my poems

there’s no train in the poem
what kind of grief is this?


Every poetry journal comes out as if
it were the last issue of melancholy


The way as their time approaches
animals hide themselves away—
people need a place to hide:
in love, in childhood, in mothers, in poetry
and they die without


I get carried away at the sight of water
I have no cup to contain me


There was one more line here but
water came over mind and I forgot


There are eyes among us
Hasan’s eyes
Selahattin’s eyes
Ece’s eyes
talking to Seyhan he looked
right at you just like Ece
like it was his father
like it was looking at his childhood
or like it was my father
like he was saying don’t leave me

Eyes filled up our souls
don’t get distracted as you look
don’t blink as you walk by
these eyes are our poems
they’re our bread
still warm with childhood
those eyes both child and father


In the tears of a mother I saw
a child grow up
in the tears of animals
I felt the forest’s outrage

it was a feeling something like
mountains welling up


When all lies believed in are shattered
the only belief to believe in is belief
and then at last there are no lies left
besides the lie that everything is real


In the old script:
“face” was written as a picture
“eye” written as love
poetry they used to call “writing words”
and so it must have been that
“autumn” was written like a heart
and “summer” written
like childhood


Morning are too difficult
more than poems—too hard


I’d give my friend a rose but I’m afraid it’ll steal his heart


Haydar Ergülen was born in Eskişehir, Turkey. He is the author of several poetry collections, including “Sokak Prensesi” (Street Princess), “Eskiden Terzi” (Once a Tailor), “40 Şiir ve Bir” (40 Poems and One), and “Karton Valiz” (Cardboard Suitcase). Derick Mattern holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His poems and translations have appeared in Gulf Coast, Asymptote, The Journal, and Copper Nickel, among other journals.


Photo: Haydar Ergülen, Alchetron

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