Kamber Ates, how are you?

Gülsum Cengiz is one of the most acclaimed poets in Turkey. She wrote this poem during the 90s when Kurdish was a forbidden language in the prisons. In order to talk to her imprisoned son, a Kurdish woman learns one sentence in Turkish. Though this poem was written almost twenty years ago, it is still relevant for what is going on in the country. Gülsüm Cengiz dedicates it to everyone who has been denied their language.

January 8 2013 Text: Gülsüm Cengiz Translation from Turkish: Suat Karantay

My language is under arrest, son
I can’t speak to you
look into my eyes
you’ll see what I say.
And also this sentence
repeating itself on my lips
this emotion in my eyes
finding its expression
İn the tone of my voice.
-Kamber Ateş how are you?

My language is under arrest, son
I can’t speak to you
look into my eyesyou’ll see what I say.
There you’ll find
the yearning, the pain
and the love in my heart.
My son, I miss you.
-Kamber Ateş how are you?

My language is under arrest, son
I can’t speak to you
look into my eyes
you’ll see what I say.
In my eyes blooms
the joy of our meeting again
it blooms
and finds its way to your cell
and the odour of the thymes
the violets of the vineyards.
I brought for you
from the mountains, from home
and the socks I weaved for you.
My son, what would you like, you?
-Kamber Ateş how are you?

My language is under arrest, son
I can’t speak to you
look into my eyes
you’ll see what I say.
In my eyes there is anxiety
left over from sleepless nights
from the news I heard.
Did they torture you?
-Kamber Ateş how are you?

My language is under arrest, son
I can’t speak to you
look into my eyes
you’ll see what I say.
In my eyes a scream
out of fury, out of resistance.
My advice to you son
do not lose your power to resist
keep your head high
don’t you surrender to oppression
don’t you!
-Kamber Ateş how are you?

My language is under arrest, son
I can’t speak to you
look into my eyes
when we say farewell.
In my eyes is sadness,
that bluest sky
the flowers in the fields
the mad winds of the mountains
the cool waters of the streams.
That love and freedom,
that you’re fighting for.
My beloved, beloved son, goodby to you.
-Kamber Ateş how are you?