A Beirut Story by Orhan Kemal

In Beirut
At “New Istanbul Restaurant”
Washing the dishes
I am eighteen years old,
My hair is combed and shiny,
White Eleni who works at the lithography,
On my mind.
What if she sees me washing the dishes?

“Should I run away?”
To Eleni for instance,
“Let’s run away together!”
I would tell her,
And hold her arm,
Drag her with me;
From the Beirut Port,
We would get on the ferry
With three chimneys.

In the evening,
My father, holding his beating heart
With his round fingers:
-My God! Where is he?
He would say.
While waiting in front of the Jewish owner’s shop
My mother would remember in panic:
“Hasan, the son of the herbalist,
had left one morning like this,
and did not return to his home, either!”
Days would pass.
Every evening,
With two loaves of bread and with his loving eyes,
Their son would not appear
In front of their knitted fabric door,
In the ruined walls of their garden.

What a tough thing to be in love.
What you plan at home,
Does not go with
The market!
Eleni is beautiful,
Roads are flawless,
The ferry is huge,
They are waiting for loaves of bread in the evening!

Translated by Nejla Karabulut


11 thoughts on “A Beirut Story by Orhan Kemal

  1. Sometimes I read your posts and smile and think, “That is nice” and I hit the ‘like’ button. Sometimes I’m not too sure and I think “he won’t notice if I don’t comment or hit ‘like’ “. But sometimes one of your poems just smacks me right in the face and I smile and wipe the tear from the corner of my eye and go “Wow! Magic!”. This was one of those.

    • I agree. A friend of mine translated it and sent it to me and agreed to let me post it.I know his prose but have not read any of his poetry in translation before. He actually turned from writing poetry to prose on Hikmet’s suggestion after serving prison time with him.

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