on the new year

Meric calls me from New York, from the house I still own, though that is passing into history, and says, Happy New Year, even though for him it is a little over 6 hours away. And we talk, we laugh, we discuss the future, and he says it must be a strange time for you, living there now with all that is going on, the youth protesting, the scandals, the polarization of the population, the Turkish mentality. And I say it reminds me of America in the sixties, the same divisions, the same egotistical, paranoid leader dividing the country over a war we could not win. The only difference, I say, about the scandal that brought him down was it was about the abuse of power, where here it’s about that and money, too. And we talk of the hope we both have for Turkey, of his desire to return so his children will be raised here, near their grandparents, their families. And it warms my heart to hear his voice, to have this conversation, to be connected over the thousands of miles with a dear friend.

And I think about this new year and how it is a pivotal year in the lives of so many people I care about, I love. Jobs hang in the balance, or at least the prospect of jobs, the uncertainy of life, pathways once thought secure are no longer so, health issues raise their ugly heads, death has come and gone and dwindled the number of people I know, and new souls are stirring within wombs which will soon see the light of day in this new year. And a spirit of renewal, of hope, permeates the air.

And as I sit with my last glass of champagne from the bottle I have consumed in my private celebration of what has passed and what is before me, I hear drums in the air, sirens, voices chanting, and I think it is a new day, a new year, a new time to be alive, and feel what millions have felt before me on days such as this as one year melted into another. Life isn’t always what we want but it isn’t always something to fear, either. It is just life, rare and beautiful, something to cherish, to hold in our hands, taste with our mouths, embrace with our minds and our hearts.

Bring it on, I say, let it come. For the changes that will surely happen, for the people who will enter my life and the people I will leave behind. C’mon, life. Give me your best shot. I’m ready.

from Music Master by Rumi

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.
I want to hold you close like a lute,
so we can cry out with loving.

You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones.

translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

poised before the new year

I would like to have
only good memories
of this day
this time of year
but I just see hospitals
both parents dying
this first month bodes heartache
for me
so I approach January
like a door on a house
one fears might be haunted
for ghosts reside here
and though I see candlelight
a woman dancing naked
friends huddled around fondue pots
three floors of live bands
parties with casinos
and people dressed as elves
dinner at the Duck House
a woman in a tuxedo
and fishnet stockings
tap dancing her way
into my heart
there are still those ghosts
like birds of prey
waiting for another soul
to stumble to fall
in the desert
that is sometimes

from Bouyancy by Rumi

To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best luck
we could have. It’s a total waking up!

translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

a year from now: for friends of mine

often in life
we have those moments
when we wish
we were a year from now
to be through whatever
it is that’s driving us
instead of us driving it
our need to be the subject
not the object
of our lives
if only
you think
I could be a year from now
slip through time
bypass the morass we’re in
be beyond the confusion
the pain the sorrow
be somewhere else
another mindset
different circumstances
if only
if only
I could
but one can’t
that’s the sad truth of it
we just have to trek on
through whatever badlands
we find ourselves in
heading for open sky
and the promise of hope
in happiness
waiting for us
just over the horizon

from Each Note by Rumi

God picks up the reed-flute world and blows.
Each note is a need coming through one of us,
a passion, a longing-pain.
Remember the lips
where the wind-breath originated,
and let your note be clear.
Don’t try to end it.
Be your note.
I’ll show you how it’s enough.

Go up on the roof at night
in this city of the soul.
Let everyone climb on their roofs
and sing their notes.

Sing loud!

translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

on character

a person is always
what they do
their actions define
their character
words are empty
unless validated by action
it’s easy to quote poetry
or political philosophy
but unless you live a life
that reflects those words
you are false
a mask hiding your real self
the hardest thing in life
is to live your words
why even speak
without the appropriate action
it’s just air

Desert by Cevat Çapan

I sit at a table
to write something to you
I think of the tightrope performers
of my childhood and
all of a sudden
the pen in my hand
gets longer and longer
like that balance stick
and I soon
unlike that masterful tightrope performer
more like an inexperienced clown
fall down into the void
and start jumping
in the bouncing net of dreams.
with the laughter
of my invisible spectators
echoing in my ears
I try to crawl
in a dry sea of ears.

translated by Zeynep Bağcı & Suat Karantay