Yarim Kalmış Bir Şarkı

October 30, 2014

Next week sees the publication in Turkish of Denis O’Hearn’s biography of Bobby Sands, Nothing But An Unfinished Song. The book will be published in time for the Istanbul Book Fair, November 8th -11th . The book, under the Turkish title, Yarim Kalmış Bir Şarkı: Bobby Sands’in Hayatı ve Dönemi, is published by Yordam Kitap of Istanbul.

The publication of the biography of Bobby Sands in Turkish is especially poignant because more than 100 political prisoners and their supporters died on hunger strike in Turkey during 2000-2007, an action which they claimed was in the tradition of Bobby Sands and his comrades. In 2012, Kurdish political prisoners went on hunger strike for 68 days, again citing the influence of the Irish hunger strikers of 1981. Students were arrested when they followed an Irish tactic of the H-Block protests, writing, “Kurdish prisoners are on hunger strike in F-type Prisons” on Turkish banknotes.

The original title of the book, Nothing But an Unfinished Song (Yarım Kalmış Bir Şarkı) comes from a poem written in Bursa prison in the 1930s by Turkey’s greatest poet, Nazim Hikmet.

In his preface to the Turkish edition, Denis O’Hearn writes:

It is especially moving to me for this book to be published in Turkish. The title, of course, is taken from a poem that was written by Nazim Hikmet while he was in Bursa prison. The degree to which Hikmet’s image of the “unfinished song” fits the life of Bobby Sands is uncanny. Not only was Bobby’s life filled with music – songs of other people that he sang and songs that he wrote himself – but his life itself was and is a wonderful song. It was often sung in the most horrible places and circumstances, and his physical song was left unfinished when he and nine other courageous young men died on hunger strike in 1981. The H-Blocks of Long Kesh prison outside of Belfast, where Sands and hundreds of men suffered and died for their ideals, was the site of one of the most horrible episodes in prison history. For five years hundreds of men were kept naked in their cells, with only blankets to wear. They were beaten and abused. They were the “blanketmen.” Yet through all of the horrors of that period, which you will read about in this book, Bobby Sands sang his song, with great power and joy. And although it remains unfinished, it lives on through other free men and women across the world and new verses continue to be written.

This is another reason why this book should be available in Turkish, and hopefully one day will be read in Kurdish. The English-language version of this book was published in 2006, at the end of a horrible death fast in Turkey, a fast that was undertaken by prisoners and their supporters who said they were acting in the tradition of Bobby Sands and his comrades.

In the intervening years this book has been into many dark places like those endured by the Irish prisoners in the H-Blocks and the Turkish death fasters.

“Supermax” prisons in the United States are dark places where tens of thousands of men spend years and even decades locked into small cells the size of a parking space, never touching another living thing, human, animal, or plant. Some have been there for decades, watching their loved ones grow older in rare visits, never touching, having to shout their love to one another through panes of security-glass or over a telephone headset. Like Bobby Sands, these men struggle in ingenious ways to practice mutual aid and solidarity, to make contact with each other through word and deed, even though they cannot make physical contact. They find ways to communicate. They share knowledge. Like Bobby and his comrades, they find ways to open the “windows of their minds,” even as their torturers close off the windows to nature and life that nourish all of our spirits in more normal places.

After this book was published, things began to change. A light began to glimmer in the darkness. The book never made the best seller lists, nor has it made its author a rich man in monetary terms. But it has provided much greater riches. Soon after this book was published it made its way into the hands of an African-American man who had been in a supermax prison in the American state of Ohio living in the conditions I have described above for fifteen years. That man, Bomani Shakur, wrote a letter to me and we have since become the closest of friends; no, we are brothers. Bomani found in this book a spirit that helped him and his comrades, sentenced to death for their alleged part in a prison uprising in 1993, to begin thinking about how another world was possible, even in the horrible conditions of solitary isolation.

I began visiting Bomani at Ohio State Penitentiary, a six hour drive away from my home in New York. We talked about many things, but mostly about the meaning of freedom. In 2009 he suggested to me that I should teach a course on prisons at my university, and that supermax prisoners could also participate, both as students and expert consultants. The class included students from assorted ethnic and class backgrounds, and ten prisoners held in long-term isolation in supermax prisons across the United States. They included Bomani Shakur but also two remarkable men from the most infamous prison in America: Pelican Bay State Prison in California. In fact, Danny Troxell and Todd Ashker were not just from the “Secure Housing Unit” (SHU) at Pelican Bay, they were from a small part of the SHU called the “short corridor,” where the state of California keeps two hundred prisoners it wants most to silence. They are men of different races: whites, African Americans, and Latinos. According to the state of California, these men are supposed to hate each other. But, instead, they formed a “short corridor collective,” where they built a community by shouting to each other from cell to cell. They shared ideas of freedom from writers like Thomas Paine and the radical historian Howard Zinn…and Bobby Sands.

According to Todd Ashker, “we’ve come to recognize and respect our racial and cultural differences…while recognizing that we’re all in the same boat when it comes to the prison staff’s dehumanizing treatment and abuse – they are our jailers, our torturers, our common adversaries.”

In 2009, these men participated in my course on “prison experiences.” They read the same books and articles as the students. Then the students wrote to them, asking questions about how life really is in prison. They asked whether famous academic prison experts, like the French social theorist and philosopher Michel Foucault, “got it right” (a short answer: no, they usually didn’t get it right).

The prisoners all read this book in the class, which you can now read in Turkish. The experiences of Bobby Sands and his comrades, though they happened thirty years previously, spoke to them across the years. They studied the Irish experience and they thought about how they, too, could fight the supermax and its tortures through non-violent actions including hunger strike.
In 2010 thousands of prisoners in the state of Georgia went on a general strike, refusing to obey the orders of the prison authorities or to do prison work (if, indeed, they were allowed to work). In early 2011, Bomani Shakur, Jason Robb (a white man), and Siddique Abdullah Hasan (a Sunni Muslim) went on hunger strike. Like Bobby Sands and his comrades they had five demands. At the top of the list was to have open visits with their friends and family and to be able to exercise together. Also like Bobby and the “blanketmen”, they reached out to supporters outside of prison and built a network of people who could undertake actions in their support: attending public demonstrations, writing editorials in newspapers outlining their case.

After twelve days without food, the men won all of their demands. A week later, I went to visit them along with my Turkish wife, Bilge. We hugged, kissed and broke bread together, the first time these men had been allowed human contact in almost twenty years. Bomani Shakur and Jason Robb (who are, incidentally, best friends even though the prison authorities insists they should be enemies because they are from different races) have both told me that Bobby Sands gave them their freedom. He and his Irish comrades showed them the way, gave them a vision of how they could win their rights. And they struggle on, but now living a life that is richer because they discovered how they could fight for their rights.

Meanwhile, our friends back in Pelican Bay also read about Bobby Sands and they heard about prisoners winning their rights in Georgia and Ohio. In the “short corridor collective,” men of mixed races who are supposed to hate each other discussed freedom. From their readings of Mayan cosmology (the Mayans are an indigenous people in Mexico and Central America) they learned about time and space, and how to identify opportunities to move to a better and higher way of living. The talk across the corridor was often loud and confused; some spoke in Spanish and some in English. But Todd Ashker says, “when Danny and I started talking about Bobby Sands and the Irish struggle, things went quiet…everyone was listening.”

The men of the short corridor slowly began to make plans for a hunger strike against California’s system of prison torture. Slowly, they got the word of their plans to prisoners all across the state of California. In 2011 and again in 2013, more than 30,000 prisoners in California went on hunger strike. Again, like the Irish, they had five simple demands. First among them was to end the system of isolation, where a man could only get back among other humans if he snitched on other men.

They launched a legal campaign against the prison system and forced the California legislature to hold hearings about the conditions at Pelican Bay and other prisons in California. The struggle continues.

In the state of Illinois, more prisoners took the class on Prison Experiences in 2014. They all read this book. Later that year they launched their own hunger strike against the prison system in that state. One of them wrote to me saying that, like the Northern Irish prison authorities, the Illinois authorities were putting metal over their windows, shutting out their only contact with nature. But he said that the men were standing firm. They would not be deterred from their fight for freedom. The spirit of Bobby Sands and the “blanketmen” of Long Kesh prison continues to speak to prisoners, across continents and across millennia.
A French edition of this book came out in 2011. It found a special audience and had special meaning to Basque prisoners in the southern parts of France, also known as the Basque Country. After some months, two prisoners from that region wrote to say that they were translating this book into Basque so that their own people in struggle can find encouragement from Irish comrades of times past.

In 2012, we shared the Prison Experience course with a remarkable group of students at Bogazici University in Istanbul. Also participating in the course were many leftist and Kurdish men and women prisoners, most of them enduring that other infamous system of prison torture and isolation: the F-type prisons. We stayed as close as we could to the same pattern of learning and sharing that we had developed in the United States with prisoners in the supermaxes. In Turkey, we found the same spirit of freedom that we found in the United States. We shared some of the life and work of Bobby Sands with prisoners in F-type, although we were hampered by problems of translation. We sent this book to a few Kurdish prisoners who spoke English.
Now, in this translation, all free men and women in this territory—captives and noncaptives; Turkish and Kurdish and Roma and Armenian; Sunni and Alevi and Christian and atheist—can share in the life of Bobby Sands and his remarkable comrades. Many already know and practice the same ideals of freedom that Bobby practiced. I know that it will enrich you to read of Bobby’s experiences, as it has enriched people all across the Americas, Europe, and Australia. Most of all, I hope that those of you who read this book will send copies into the prisons of Turkey. The captives in Turkey are Bobby’s people. They will understand.

Nâzım Hikmet, Communist Poet

August 18, 2009

Nâzım Hikmet was once declared by the Turkish state as a traitor. But almost fifty years after his death, this year the Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek announced that “Turkey is restoring the citizenship of its most famous 20th century poet Nâzım Hikmet”. Mick Hall, in a feature solicited by the Bobby Sands Trust, examines the life of this great poet.

Nâzım Hikmet, Communist Poet
By Mick Hall

Nâzım Hikmet was truly a man of his age, and when reading his work it is easy to see why it enraged the bureaucrats who oversaw the Turkish State. For the more his jailers turned the screw the more he rebelled against their brutality and proclaimed for all to see the beauty in the world and that within his fellow man.

Born in 1901 into a wealthy bourgeois family which had strong connection within the Ottoman Court, his grandfather belonged to the liberal Mevlevi order of Islam (Sufi), whose religious rituals included expressing their faith through dance. Throughout the Ottoman period the Mevlevi order was famous for its poets and musicians. They also helped man the upper echelons of the bureaucracy of the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate.

Nâzım Hikmet was educated in the tradition of an upper class Turkish child of his day. His schooling was in French and at 16 he entered a prestigious naval academy, graduating in 1918. However, after being posted to a war ship he became ill and having spent a year in hospital he was discharge from the Navy in 1920 for health reasons.

At the end of WW1, the Ottoman Empire, which had sided with Germany in that needless, bloody conflagration, crumbled into dust and its capital, Istanbul, and much of modern day Turkey were occupied by the armies of the victorious Allies, who planned to carve up these lands between the UK, France, Italy and Greece, leaving the Turks only a small piece of land in central Anatolia.

Having become radicalized by ‘Ataturk’s’ (Mustafa Kemal’s) call to liberate Turkey from the foreign invaders, Hikmet wrote a poem called Gençlik, (Youth) which was a call to the younger generation to fight for the liberation of their country.

On 1 January 1921, Hikmet was able to make his way covertly from Istanbul to central Turkey with the help of an illegal organization which provided weapons to Mustafa Kemal’s emerging army, who were then based, along with the command of the resistance movement, at a small town called Ankara, which then was famous for sheep that produced angora wool; and today is the capital of the Turkish Republic.

The publication of Gençlik caused a stir amongst tens of thousands of young Turks, who were enthused by it to join the struggle to liberate Turkey from its foreign occupiers. When he arrived in Ankara, Nâzım Hikmet was summoned to meet Mustafa Kemal, who advised him, “In order to be modern, some young poets write theme-less poems. I advise you to write poetry with an aim.” Ataturk then arranged for Hikmet to work at the fledgling ‘Ministry of Education,’ probably realizing that he would be out of harm’s way and more valuable there than at the front, especially given that at the time Kemal had more men than he had arms to supply them with.

It was during this time that Nâzım Hikmet came into contact with people who spoke favourably about the Russian Revolution. That Lenin’s government had been the first to recognize Kemal’s provisional government must have further endeared the Bolsheviks to Hikmet.

Nevertheless, it was not only the town Ankara that was a backward and conservative place, so too were many senior members of Ataturk’s army, staffed as it was by men like Kemal who were former officers in the Ottoman armies, many of whom had been trained in staff colleges manned by teachers seconded from the Kaiser’s army. Thus word soon reached Ziya Hilmi, a senior official in the provisional government, about a group of young men who refused to attend the mosque and argued about left-wing radical ideas. It was one thing for Ataturk and his immediate entourage to push the political envelope wide, but quite another thing to allow all and sundry.

Whilst not unsympathetic to radical ideas himself, Hilmi knew that for Ataturk winning the war of liberation took precedent; and, he concluded, Hikmet would be safer abroad. Thus Hikmet and a fellow poet Vâlâ Nureddin went to Moscow to study and experience the Russian revolution at first hand. It was here he came under the influence of Vladimir Mayakovski, Meyerhold and other Soviet poets, musicians and artists who belonged to the Left Art Front.

Hikmet returned to Turkey in 1924, not long after the Turkish War of Independence had ended in a victory for Ataturk’s forces and the foundation of the Turkish Republic. But he was soon arrested for working on a leftist magazine. In 1926 he managed to avoid a police round-up of leftists by again going to Russia, where he continued writing poetry and plays.

A general amnesty allowed him to return to Turkey in 1928. By then he had joined the Turkish Communist Party, which had been outlawed, and he found himself under constant surveillance by the new Republic’s secret police and spent five of the next ten years in prison, on a variety of trumped-up charges. In 1933, for example, he was remanded in jail for putting illegal posters in a public place, but when his case came to trial it was thrown out of court for lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, between 1929 and 1936 he published nine books, five collections and four long poems that revolutionized Turkish poetry, flouting Ottoman literary conventions and introducing free verse and colloquial diction. While these poems established him as a major poet, he also published several plays and novels and to keep the wolf from the door he also worked as a bookbinder, proof-reader, journalist, translator, and screenwriter to support an extended family that included his second wife, her two children, and his widowed mother.

With Mustafa Kemal ‘Atatürk’ dead, the Turkish State, having failed to break Nâzım Hikmet’s political will, then decided to lock him away for good, by placing him before a drumhead court and on the night of 17 January 1938, he was arrested by the police. He was sent to the Military Court of the Military College Headquarters in Ankara to be tried for “provoking military personnel to rebel against their superiors.” He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years, although the State was not done with Nâzım as it was determined to place a double lock on his cell door.

To ensure this happened he was then brought before the Military Court of the Naval Headquarters, charged with having “provoking naval soldiers to rebellion.” For this imaginary ‘crime’ the gallant admirals sentenced Nâzım Hikmet to a further 25 years.

Although feeling victorious they pared the 35 years down to 28 years and 4 months in total prison time. This sentence was approved by the Military Supreme Court on 29 December 1938 and Hikmet disappeared into the dark vault that was, and still is, the Turkish penal system.

Far from being silenced Nâzım Hikmet wrote ferociously for the next 12 years, smuggling new poems out of the jails on scraps of paper. On completing a poem he would read it to his friends amongst his fellow inmates who looked forward to these readings as they took them beyond the prison walls.

After WW2 ended a campaign to free Hikmet gradually built up steam, both within Turkey and abroad, where a committee was set up in 1949 to campaign for his release. It included the leading artist and writers of the day including the poet Pablo Neruda, Picasso, the singer Paul Robeson and intellectuals like Jean Paul Sarte and Bertrand Russell.

It was during this period that Hikmet engaged in an 18-day hunger strike to further pressure the Turkish authorities. On 15 July 1950, shortly after Turkey’s first ‘democratically’ elected government came to power, he was told by his lawyer that he was free at last.

However, the security services had not given up on him and within a short time of being released their persecution of him began again. Reluctantly Nâzım Hikmet was once again forced into exile. Given a house outside of Moscow, he travelled widely in Europe, Asia, Cuba and Africa, promoting his work and the causes he believed in. He died of a heart attack in 1963.

Whilst persecuted by the Turkish State in his own lifetime and his books and poems banned, Nâzım Hikmet is today revered by the overwhelming majority of the Turkish people. At the turn of the 21st century over 500,000 Turks signed a petition demanding that the government restore Hikmet’s citizenship. Ask any Turk who their nation’s greatest poet is and resoundingly they will reply Nâzım Hikmet, often quoting a verse of one of his poems to prove their love.

Sensing the public’s great love for the man and his work, Turkey’s political elite do likewise. Whether they be on the political left, centre or right, they now all sing the praise of this radical communist internationalist.

The current Islamic AKP government is no exception. Over 50 years after the Turkish State branded Hikmet a traitor and withdrew his citizenship, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek recently announced that “Turkey is restoring the citizenship of its most famous 20th century poet Nâzım Hikmet.”

Myself, I have absolutely no doubt that 50 years on, the Irish political elite will be glorifying Bobby Sands and, as with the aforementioned Turkish political elite, they will be doing so, for all the wrong reasons.


If instead of being hanged by the neck
You’re thrown inside
for not giving up hope
in the world, your country, your people,
if you do ten or fifteen years
apart from the time you have left,
you won’t say,
“Better I had swung from the end of a rope
like a flag” –
You’ll put your foot down and live.

It may not be a pleasure exactly,
but it’s your solemn duty
to live one more day
to spite the enemy.

Part of you may live alone inside,
like a tone at the bottom of a well.

But the other part
must be so caught up
in the flurry of the world
that you shiver there inside
when outside, at forty days’ distance, a leaf moves.

To wait for letters inside,
to sing sad songs,
or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling
is sweet but dangerous.

Look at your face from shave to shave,
forget your age,
watch out for lice
and for spring nights,
and always remember
to eat every last piece of bread-
also, don’t forget to laugh heartily.

And who knows,
the woman you love may stop loving you.

Don’t say it’s no big thing:
it’s like the snapping of a green branch
to the man inside.

To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.

Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.

I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass
ten or fifteen years inside
and more –
you can,
as long as the jewel
on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose it’s luster!

Nazim Hikmet – May 1949. Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)


This country shaped like the head of a mare

Coming full gallop from far off Asia

To stretch into the Mediterranean


Bloody wrists, clenched teeth

bare feet,

Land like a precious silk carpet


Let the doors be shut that belong to others

Let them never open again

Do away with the enslaving of man by man


To live! Like a tree alone and free

Like a forest in brotherhood





I carved your name on my watchband

with my fingernail.

Where I am, you know,

I don’t have a pearl-handled jackknife

(they won’t give me anything sharp)

or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.

Trees may grow in the yard,

but I’m not allowed

to see the sky overhead…..

How many others are in this place?

I don’t know.

I’m alone far from them,

they’re all together far from me.

To talk anyone besides myself

is forbidden.

So I talk to myself.

But I find my conversation so boring,

my dear wife, that I sing songs.

And what do you know,

that awful, always off-key voice of mine

touches me so

that my heart breaks.

And just like the barefoot orphan

lost in the snow

in those old sad stories, my heart

– with moist blue eyes

and a little red runny rose-

wants to snuggle up in your arms.

It doesn’t make me blush

that right now

I’m this weak,

this selfish,

this human simply.

No doubt my state can be explained

physiologically, psychologically, etc.

Or maybe it’s

this barred window,

this earthen jug,

these four walls,

which for months have kept me from hearing

another human voice.

It’s five o’clock, my dear.


with its dryness,

eerie whispers,

mud roof,

and lame, skinny horse

standing motionless in infinity

-I mean, it’s enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief-

outside, with all its machinery and all its art,

a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.

A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.

And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape

stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,

will suddenly be filled with stars.

We’ll reach the inevitable end once more,

which is to say the stage is set

again today for an elaborate nostalgia.


the man inside,

once more I’ll exhibit my customary talent,

and singing an old-fashioned lament

in the reedy voice of my childhood,

once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart

to hear you inside my head,

so far

away, as if I were watching you

in a smoky, broken mirror…


It’s spring outside, my dear wife, spring.

Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell

of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.

It’s spring, my dear wife,

the plain outside sparkles…

And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,

the water jug no longer freezes,

and in the morning sun floods the concrete…

The sun-

every day till noon now

it comes and goes

from me, flashing off

and on…

And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,

the glass of the barred window catches fire,

and it’s night outside,

a cloudless spring night…

And inside this is spring’s darkest hour.

In short, the demon called freedom,

with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,

possesses the man inside

especially in spring…

I know this from experience, my dear wife,

from experience…


Sunday today.

Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.

And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life

by how far away the sky is,

how blue

and how wide.

Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.

I leaned back against the wall.

For a moment no trap to fall into,

no struggle, no freedom, no wife.

Only earth, sun, and me…

I am happy.

Nazim Hikmet – 1938. Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)



You waste the attention of your eyes,

the glittering labour of your hands,

and knead the dough enough for dozens of loaves

of which you’ll taste not a morsel;

you are free to slave for others-

you are free to make the rich richer.

The moment you’re born

they plant around you

mills that grind lies

lies to last you a lifetime.

You keep thinking in your great freedom

a finger on your temple

free to have a free conscience.

Your head bent as if half-cut from the nape,

your arms long, hanging,

your saunter about in your great freedom:

you’re free

with the freedom of being unemployed.

You love your country

as the nearest, most precious thing to you.

But one day, for example,

they may endorse it over to America,

and you, too, with your great freedom-

you have the freedom to become an air-base.

You may proclaim that one must live

not as a tool, a number or a link

but as a human being-

then at once they handcuff your wrists.

You are free to be arrested, imprisoned

and even hanged.

There’s neither an iron, wooden

nor a tulle curtain

in your life;

there’s no need to choose freedom:

you are free.

But this kind of freedom

is a sad affair under the stars.

Nazim Hikmet



You’re like a scorpion, my brother,

you live in cowardly darkness

like a scorpion.

You’re like a sparrow, my brother,

always in a sparrow’s flutter.

You’re like a clam, my brother,

closed like a clam, content,

And you’re frightening, my brother,

like the mouth of an extinct volcano.

Not one,

not five-

unfortunately, you number millions.

You’re like a sheep, my brother:

when the cloaked drover raises his stick,

you quickly join the flock

and run, almost proudly, to the slaughterhouse.

I mean you’re strangest creature on earth-

even stranger than the fish

that couldn’t see the ocean for the water.

And the oppression in this world

is thanks to you.

And if we’re hungry, tired, covered with blood,

and still being crushed like grapes for our wine,

the fault is yours-

I can hardly bring myself to say it,

but most of the fault, my dear brother, is yours.

Nazim Hikmet – 1947.Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)



Bursa Prison

My one and only!

Your last letter says:

“My head is throbbing,

my heart is stunned!”

You say:

“If they hang you,

if I lose you,

I’ll die!”

You’ll live, my dear-

my memory will vanish like black smoke in the wind.

Of course you’ll live, red-haired lady of my heart:

in the twentieth century

grief lasts

at most a year.


a body swinging from a rope.

My heart

can’t accept such a death.


you can bet

if some poor gypsy’s hairy black

spidery hand

slips a noose

around my neck,

they’ll look in vain for fear

in Nazim’s

blue eyes!

In the twilight of my last morning


will see my friends and you,

and I’ll go

to my grave

regretting nothing but an unfinished song…

My wife!



eyes sweeter than honey-my bee!

Why did I write you

they want to hang me?

The trial has hardly begun,

and they don’t just pluck a man’s head

like a turnip.

Look, forget all this.

If you have any money,

buy me some flannel underwear:

my sciatica is acting up again.

And don’t forget,

a prisoner’s wife

must always think good thoughts.



Comrades, if I don’t live to see the day

– I mean,if I die before freedom comes –

take me away

and bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia.

The worker Osman whom Hassan Bey ordered shot

can lie on one side of me, and on the other side

the martyr Aysha, who gave birth in the rye

and died inside of forty days.

Tractors and songs can pass below the cemetery –

in the dawn light, new people, the smell of burnt gasoline,

fields held in common, water in canals,

no drought or fear of the police.

Of course, we won’t hear those songs:

the dead lie stretched out underground

and rot like black branches,

deaf, dumb, and blind under the earth.

But, I sang those songs

before they were written,

I smelled the burnt gasoline

before the blueprints for the tractors were drawn.

As for my neighbors,

the worker Osman and the martyr Aysha,

they felt the great longing while alive,

maybe without even knowing it.

Comrades, if I die before that day, I mean

– and it’s looking more and more likely –

bury me in a village cemetery in Anatolia,

and if there’s one handy,

a plane tree could stand at my head,

I wouldn’t need a stone or anything.

Nazim Hikmet, 27 April 1953, Moscow, Barviha Hospital


I love my country . . .

I love my country . . .

I swung in its lofty trees, I lay in its prisons.

Nothing relieves my depression

Like the songs and tobacco of my country.

. . . and then my working, honest, brave people.

Ready to accept with the joy of a wondering child,


progressive, lovely, good,

half hungry, half full.

half slave . . .

(Memleketimi seviyorum [I love my country].

Organized Rage