p o e m s

ö z d e m i r   a s a f 

One evening you were looking from your window
Into darkness slowly filling the road.
Someone passed your house resembling me.
Your heart began to race…
But the one passing wasn’t me.

One night you were sleeping in your bed…
You awoke suddenly to a silent world.
Something in a dream opened your eyes,
And darkness was there in your room…
The one who saw you wasn’t me.

At that time I was nowhere near,
And for no reason you began to cry.
Now at last you’re thinking of me
Living with love in your life…
The one who knew this wasn’t me.

You were reading a book, entranced…
The people inside fell in love or else died.
A young man in the novel was killed.
You were afraid, with all your strength cried…
The one who died wasn’t me.



I thought so intensely of you,
Before this life, just so.
As if there were nothing more.
But I say you were there
In my thoughts.

Just so I found you,
Just so, beyond my self.
You alone without shadow,
Unmoving, beside me.
Your whites between black,
The light in your dark centers.

I wanted you so intensely,
You before anything…
Just so within everything,
Just so without,
Day, night.

I lived you so intensely,
Believe me…
Who knows where I gaze
or what I’m doing now
from the eternity I’ve gained.



This glance is for you to see.
Is there anything more than you?
To the sea, I’ll look to the sea…
Is this all there is of the sea?

Staring only to see something else…
Nature cringes in front of me.
Landscapes pass by the second.
Clouds beneath my feet, you in my head.

At stars, I’m looking at the stars…
You’re here looking with me.
I wonder what happened to the others…
They had words, and enlightened life.



A candle was burning in the room of a house.
There was a cat in the house too.
As nights went by of their own accord
The candle burned and the cat played.

On one such night when the candle burned
The cat became lost in its game.
In eyes hungry for play
The candle flame burned,
The cat stared,
And in the flickering flame of the candle
A toying pleasure called out.

The cat, growing in its games, grew too
In its own child-like way,
Went round and round, walked slowly
Towards the toy-like flame.
A glance, once more, and again it looked
And stretched a paw
To the flickering candle flame.
He appeared confused
Until his whiskers burned…
Didn’t seem to believe
That the flame he’d seen for the very first time
Could burn him.

The cat grew as it played,
The candle grew cold as it burned.
Time stepped between them,
Quickened its pace.
And something seemed strange
Between the burning of one
And the games of the other.

But the cat grew as it played,
Slowly losing the game.
And the candle grew small as it burned,
Slowly losing its flame.

The cat, as it plays, will burn,
The candle, lighting, growing small, will burn.
The one getting small will brighten as it burns,
The one growing big will learn as it’s burnt.

After the candle’s burning
And the cat’s playing
There remained
In a room of a house
In the middle of the night
Two people
Silently staring.


The candle burned to its end,
The cat grew and went.
Games dissolved into nights
Into a silent insomnia.

In the memories and thoughts
Of two people
A cat and a candle
Came and went.

Wherever a candle burns now,
Wherever a cat plays,
The shadows of each are entwined and reflect…
Today is like yesterday,
Yesterday like today.
The candle scratches my hands
And the cat’s paws light up my past.



A day doesn’t pass everyday.



Don’t know what was in her hair.
Was it the wind blowing madly,
Or just the way I saw it…
Whatever it was, I loved it.



Your hair would waver in the wind.
Nearby, I used to watch you.
The sun would burn, the sea be burnt.
You’d talk, I’d listen.

You used to smile.
You’d be quiet, pensive,
Walking with me hand in hand.
The road would come to an end.

Then I wouldn’t see you…
Years would pass.
From far, far away
I used to watch you.



When I spoke to you I suppose I spoke.
To you when I spoke I spoke I suppose.
I spoke I suppose when I spoke to you.
I suppose I spoke to you when I spoke.



White is the color
Of time, fire, and death.

Write red
The color of passion, lies, hatred.

Paint blue
The clothes of dreams, love, and honor.

Draw black
The shirt of poverty, hopelessness, and loss.


From DUNYA KACTI GOZUME (1955): ‘Myth’. From SEN SEN SEN (1956): ‘It wasn’t Me’, ‘Sisyphus’, ‘As If’, ‘Her Hair’, ‘I Used to Watch You’. From YUMUSAKLIKLAR DEGIL (1962): ‘Dum’ From YALNIZLIK PAYLASILMAZ (1978): ‘The Story of the Cat Playing with the Candle Flame,’ ‘ Title’.

Poems ©copyright Özdemir Asaf and ©copyright Adam Yaylinari Publishers, Istanbul.

Copyright permission for translation of Özdemir Asaf into English has been given by his publisher. Translations ©copyright 2002 George Messo.



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