elegy for bruised poetry

translated by 

A digitally altered photograph of a hewn quarry underneath a purpled sky

outside the wind gently flips its hair
    moving toward the vastness of the blue
    in sky-abyss
outside the water in its riverbed 
    flows into the depth of seas

the leaf greens on its branch
    then withers into yellow

children, the birds of sky
    sinless
they depict life with the tongue
    of weeping willows

workers descend into the mines for
 the sound of labor to reverberate through the depth
 the inherent blindness of the processed ore
    diminishes the compassion of the working hand

with the boneless tongue of iron, bronze, and rage
 lives are lost to wars in distant countries
 the poisonous fruits of the gardens nearby
 hunger first hits children
 the sky darkens with women’s sighs
 and the white dignity of salt
    covers the rotting flesh of innocence

Translation from the Turkish

Translator’s note: Kurdish poet and painter Cengiz Sinan Çelik was arrested in 1997 for his political activism in Turkey. Based on false charges, and a confession he signed under torture, he was sentenced to life in prison by the Turkish government. He is among the many political prisoners who are denied fair trials and have limited, if any, access to proper medical treatment for their life-threatening illnesses.

Born in 1974 in Dersim, Cengiz Sinan Çelik is an imprisoned Kurdish poet and painter. Çelik’s artwork has appeared in national and international exhibitions. His poems and articles have also been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is the recipient of numerous Turkish and Kurdish poetry awards. Serdestan, Çelik’s first collection of poetry, was released by Ayrıntı Publishing (Istanbul) in January 2022.


Photo by Mario Pardo Segovia

Öykü Tekten is a poet, translator, archivist, and editor.

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