Spring’s Idleness (extract), translated by Eylül Karakullukcu

The home of the swallow in the eaves,
That of the little sparrow in the branches,
And of the pigeons on roofs of mosques
Sweeping through the minarets
This is İstanbul’s azure neighbourhood.
I am a silver seagull, soaring along the horizon.
It is me who shows the way to ships,
Loaded with wheat and medicine.
In a wingbeat I am engulfed in the clouds;
In a glide, the waves are my domain!


I think to truly understand this poem, you would need to have seen İstanbul and its skyline in person, but I did my best to capture that feeling. A particular description that was hard to translate was ‘dallara emanet’ which translates literally to ‘entrusted to the branches’, but what it means is that it’s home is in the branches. Also, the word ‘vatan’ translates literally to ‘homeland’, but I changed it to ‘domain’ for the poem to end on a powerful note. A cultural reference that was difficult to portray was the pigeons on the roofs of mosques. This is quite a common sight in İstanbul, and people often feed them bird food outside the mosques. However, to someone who has never been to Turkey, it might seem odd! The original poem has a regular metre, but I decided to not incorporate this into my translation, since I think it sounds more natural without it.

Yuvası saçakta kalan kırlangıç,
Yavrusu dallara emanet serçe,
Derken camiler üstünde güvercin
Minareler katından geçiyorum
Gökyüzü mahallesi İstanbul’un
Süt beyaz bir martıyım açıklarda
Gemilere ben yol gösteriyorum,
Buğday ve ilaç yüklü gemilere
Bir kanat vuruşta bulutlardayım;
Bir süzülüşte vatanım dalgalar!


Original poem by Bahar Sarhoşluğu. Reproduced by kind permission of the poet.