Gonca Özmen’s poem “Knowingly Willingly” is excerpted from A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue between East & West. Jo Shapcott’s English version is based on a literal translation from the Turkish by Maureen Freely and Özge Çallı Spike.
Edited by Barbara Schwepcke and Bill Swainson and forthcoming from Gingko, A New Divan is an anthology of twenty-four original poems—twelve by poets from the “East” (including Adonis, Don Paterson, Nujoom Alghanem, and Fatemeh Shams) and twelve by poets from the “West” (including Homero Aridjis, Durs Grünbein, Angélica Freitas, and Gilles Ortlieb).
The shadows were so insane I tasted them
And spoke them, though I said I wouldn’t
Love, never take me home again
Least of all to that house, and especially not at night
Empty my bottom drawer, incinerate my garden,
Fling me out like the hick I am,
So awkward in your tall ancestral halls
Which coil into each other, into you, into time
Love, forgive me at night, most of all at night:
Let me go back to the dance, the crowd
My body is a gun made of sorrow
aimed at you
Don’t snag me into your trap
This is nothing compared to what I ran from
Love, save me from those mornings,
from those long tables, those elegant rooms
You could go swimming in the marshes of death
and still dive back freely into those mornings
with the approval of your mother’s fine cheekbone,
me in my holey tights stumbling through breakfast.
Love, listen to me at night, most of all at night
So I can let these words fall from my tongue
Prickly threads of sound
Nothing like my voice
Love, night-times, lay me down on a bed of wine
Distilled from your poverty, poured from your fears
Tell the fresias and jasmines about me
And most of all tell the dervishes, especially at night
Love, see a world in me, a peeled grape
Ignore the spinning machinery outside
Forget the pain I keep pressing on you,
Let it rest, let it fade into the distance
Catch an apple, a burst of street talk, a catcall,
an explosion of laughter in your ear.
Love, you streamed through my voice like water
What you’ve dropped didn’t fall from your pockets
Waiting, I’ve gathered more dust
Than an undisturbed vase
There is meaning in an undone button
It is words which kill their targets
Love, lean into me, look at me
You touch me but you left ages ago
Even water’s too busy to flow with me
No one’s coming to put a stop to the night, to let morning in.
Excerpted from A New Divan: A Lyrical Dialogue between East & West, published by Gingko. Original poem in Turkish copyright © Gonca Özmen 2019. English language version copyright © Jo Shapcott 2019. By arrangement with the publisher.