from Songs of the Vineyard Harvest

Şükrü Erbaş

remembering Paul Éluard

For the dreams of these sleeping people
For the unsleeping ones wrapped in night like a cardigan
For the ache of trees stretching skyward leaf by leaf
For the faithful street dogs who start up with the call to prayer
For the vast blue darkness of the sea
For the tears of wounded pride
For the haughty desolation of mountaintops
For the pomegranate trees’ red bells-of-plenty
For the yoke heavy with the hopelessness of hope
For the intent of all lovers who put faith in the heart
For the distances roads turn toward punishment
For the nearness roads turn toward pardon
For songs sung by goldfinch to the wildfinch 
For the nights when wine makes love to candles
For the dead left in the bodies of desire
For despair’s fallen faces
For the long deep eyes of poverty
For the stuttering joy of joining together
For the walls built of us all
For great love holding true to nothing but itself
For the fear and the desire of that bloom of light
For my forty years spent in aimless delay . . .

World being born from a body of love
You put this heart in front of this beauty
Do not leave me apart
Death one day will somehow remain in force . . . 



Man is the soul-atlas of the plains. The sea thirsts. A girl gives with her eyelashes endlessness to the waters. Then there is a word, a glance . . . Light is worthy of shadow. All the ants in the world walk on tiptoe. Figments. Delight falls to fever skin. The man is free for life. Two seas flow over a cliff, in terror, brave. The man gives the girl beads of teardrops. The girl offers pomegranate hearths. Not summer, but an urge to live in struggle on the rocks. Snails leave the garden to cicadas. The man holds to the prayer of the leaves. The girl’s hair is a song of clouds in her mouth. Sin is merely others. The man is happy with pain, the girl winged with fear . . . A red breath, with a red breath it endures, death speaks in every moment: Love has no truth but this. All that in the world is, is. Delight in your delight.

Two partings shine softly in two seas . . . Two cold moments chime with the same desire. The harvest knives in the distance . . . The day begins with the body alone . . .


Light Syllables  

Drop by drop you trickle from my eyes.

If I were near now, if I could hear your mouth, if I could put on your hair, if I could love the bed pooling your beauty, if I could love . . .

You’re such a figment of imagination, you’re everywhere. Soft touch of touch-me-nots, wilt of citrus flower, revolt of honeysuckle, sea-leaves, smiling suns, scented gardens, cloudy winds . . . God must come to being in the world as you do.

Good morning morning-delight, sleep-dimples, dream of wells . . . Good morning god of time, endless lettering of my mouth, horizon of my walking . . . Good morning cloud song and applauding trees . . .

Look at the hollow where you put your head on the pillow. You said it was parting . . .

From one sea to another strikes a vast light. The light becomes a rose. In the rose is a hearth, in the hearth is a shattered pomegranate, in each piece of the pomegranate a world. You are the only one I do not love.

A soft morning. At such an hour God must have brought himself into being. An inexplicable optimism in everything. To the pomegranate trees I said: A child god has been brought into my heart, let not her beauty come to harm, let not evil come nigh to her. The little red flowers of the pomegranate tree whispered: Our colors offer her our prayers, may they be to our bounty. I bowed to the honeysuckle: Give your scent to her hair, spill it on her pillow. The honeysuckle smiled with pleasure: Your heart is ours. What is distance to love? . . . The red-pink-yellow verbena rebelled: You want to exile us to that far shore? The olive trees stretched out their hazy leaves: Give her the milk of our fruit, may it give her long life, with our own hands let us milk them and lay her table with our leaves. Twisted around the trunks of palm tree, the trumpet vines bowed with orange delight: If only we could entwine her body like a trunk. The hibiscus opened its eyes like a gift: For the life of this love, what more can we give but red passion and red grief? Bananas stretched their leaves into the cradle: Take our leaves, lie down on them, swaddle in them. The date palm, the bougainvillea, the streets filled with bitter oranges: So few eyes look on us with such deep love and from this lack we suffer unseen. Your being is our being also.

Your room makes my head spin. From your window a far-off grove hummed within me. What you possess is the ritual of life. Moments blurred together. When I was born, when I died. Why did my reward become punishment? I fell silent as a stone. Oh delayed love, you are a loneliness even in this feral solitude . . .

I woke. I gave thanks for still being alive. Soon you will get up. Your room will come to life. Eyelash by eyelash objects will awake. Your mirror a festival. Not water but your fingers will gush from the faucet. The combs will rebel. Everything you wear will be drunk with your skin. The window will kiss your neck with a breeze from the woods. Light will mingle with light. In the midst of all this I will gaze at you with trembling. How can there be no tears at such a great drama? Good morning, morning that gives me birth.

The world in blood slumbers. There is no greater freedom than thinking about you in such loneliness. Crowds, pouring with people. Every breath breathed away from you is a betrayal. This is not merely love. You are the whole world. In tears, in poems, in songs, in wine, in candles. In the beauty that came of Three Periods and Five Letters. You gave wings to my water, turned my stones into clouds, abated my words . . . I give thanks for you oh sovereign of earth and sky. You loved me beyond the cliffs’ deep fall.

Sleeping dream, waking world . . . this evening a sea will move to sea. A man will swell up like cotton wool. Foam will walk the streets at night. Loneliness will suddenly crowd in. Distance will fall silent. I will embrace you with two hands of earth and cloud. Your mouth will shine before your eyes. Eye of my life figment of my eye . . . Hereafter your home is the world . . .

How can real time get so mingled with heart-time like this . . . I walk with a soft smile. Your face is a red cloud. I stand in the shade of a plane tree. Above me falls not leaves but your hair. A splendor of blue. I hear singing. Your fingers flow into me with your voice. I believe once again that “birds are drunk with flight.” A goldfinch turns dusk into festival. So much time you gave that you escaped the verdict of death and separation. Good morning great beauty. Pain’s endless greeting . . .



The Tale of Züleyha

With my words you left
Me in Joseph’s well
Your face a drop of sky
Farther and farther away
Your voice gone from my voice
My mouth a roar of sand
Night my coat torn
Into forty pieces of love
Dyed with tears
From that rippled time
Not one eyelash star
Not one morning hair
You took my windlass away
As the world grew in my mouth
Oh tale of Züleyha
For so long I’ve been wrong
Your timeless beauty
Was held in others’ words
You tell me now to choose
The right death
My rope a snake-hiss
Your body jangling gold
I am that Joseph
Coming to you from death . . .

translated from the Turkish by Derick Mattern