Translated by: Tayfun Göl
The 23 Cent Soldier
It would be unfair to hide this from you,
life is a bit expensive in our country.
For example, you can buy two hundred grams of meat, mutton,
for 23 cents in Ankara,
or two kilos of dry onions,
or a little over a kilo of lentils,
fifty centimeters of shroud or,
or a man in his twenties
for a month.
All his limbs, mouth and nose in place,
With his uniform and his automatic rifle on,
In other words, ready to kill, ready to be killed,
maybe coward like a rabbit,
maybe smart like the earth
maybe brave as the youth,
maybe cunning as the water
(a matter of filling every cup it is poured in) ,
maybe he will see the sea for the first time in his life,
maybe he is interested in hunting, or maybe he is in love.
Or, on that same account, Mister Dalles
(that is to say for 23 cents each)
they sell you thirty-five of these soldiers at once
Monthly rent of a single room in İstanbul,
eighty-five six-tenths or
for a pair of shoes.
There is only one matter, Mister Dalles,
I guess they hid this from you:
That soldier they sold you for 23 cents a piece,
existed before you put on your uniform,
existed without an automatic rifle and all,
existed only as human
He existed, you will find that strange,
already existed, for a long long while,
before your state was even named.
He existed, he was busy with his work,
for example, Mister Dalles,
While only winds were blowing where your New-York is now,
he built lead domes
as high as the sky,
Silk was embroidered in his hand like the gardens of Bursa.
He carved the marble like a carpet,
and from one bank of the river to the other
Forty-arched bridges he built like a rainbow.
There’s more, Mister Dalles,
While the meaning of words in your language was not even clear yet,
words like persecution,
your words like brotherhood,
he was already fighting against oppression,
and for independence and freedom
and inviting the nations to the table of brotherhood,
and to declare
everywhere to be shared
except the cheek of one’s lover,
He followed the steps of Bedreddin
He is the machinist Hasan, the peasant Mehmet, the teacher Ali.
The final mastery of his fist like a rock:
That is 922 is September 9th.
As I said Mister Dalles,
They probably hid all this from you,
The price is a bargain, there must be some problem
So do not be surprised,
If tomorrow he costs you dearly,
this 23 cent soldier,
That is to say my poor, my brave, my hardworking nation,
The Turkish nation, grand like every other nation. (1953)