Category Archives: Poetry

“Hoping Against Hope”, a Poem

hoping against hope

at the Tunis Carthage airport . . .
as soon as i entered the passenger lounge
“Litany” greeted me and resonated throughout the waiting area
that piece clung on to the once-innocent heart
memories came flashing back to the core of the soul
emotions fought with one another to be the one to lead
sorrow dominated, followed by a sense of anticipation

what if . . . what if all was not lost?

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“Death’s Angst”

Death’s Angst

When the heartbreak after the death of a beloved is too much for my soul to surpass, my memory box yields a surprise: death itself battles a lethal fight against a gregarious force – the steadfast power in us which grows each time we send dear ones onto their so-called “final” flight. Our undying love never leaves their sight. Thus, death bows down before its own unwavering plight.

~ ~ ~

This poem has first appeared in my latest book, Letter-Poems from a Beloved, published on June 21, 2020 by Inner Child Press, AKA Inner Child Press International.

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“white privilege”

white privilege

whites assume me to be one of their own,
though i am a woman born and raised in Turkey
the melanin in my skin is quite light, you see . . .

my birthplace – geographically speaking,
a Eurasian country, gave me a bubble of safety
life was all about parental and sibling love for me there
my extended family contributed to the gentle joys
of many an unforgettable daily affair

not even once did i have the need to tell anyone that i want to live
i just lived, and was let be

Black Turks / Turkish Blacks?
i had not heard about them much,
other than those who were celebrated on stage;
theater actors / actresses and ballet dancers, that is
a true fan of Black musicians i was in my teenage-years

nothing substantial was to be found
in those school books of Turkey’s yesteryear
i discovered the centuries-long plight
the Black population endured in the U.S. of A
from a multitude of outside sources in print
and thus, knew way back then
that awareness needed to be raised
for discrimination in any form and shape and to any extent;
not staying silent in the face of injustice and inequality was a must
that none of us should ever allow anyone to willfully pretend
how ‘everything is just fine and dandy’ while racism is blatantly praised

so, a few pieces of information were gathered
as acquired by this “white” person, privileged at birth
who was objectifying the subject right from the start,
incapable of grasping the brutal reality
which routinely hit Blacks people hardest globally

but hey,
i was ready for an intellectual discussion . . .

what a hypocrisy!

following my formal early education,
i perused several volumes on the Ottoman Empire
the horror of what the Black Eunuchs had to survive
turned for me into a recurring nightmare,
haunting me for many a year
most of them were castrated
when they were assigned to provide
private services in the Harem of the Sultans 

i had lived inside a safe bubble, as i said initially
hence, that uncovered segment of the pre-Republic Turkish history
left me in an overpowering shock
such historical accounts had been, after all,
dismissed predominantly all along
it must have been vital to help us, the modern-day Turks,
to continue to proudly gild our precious fame
as a nation of humility,
grace and hospitality . . .

decades later, a name crossed my path:
activist and poet Mustafa Olpak
he was talking about “Dana Bayramı”,
“a traditional Afro-Turkish Spring Festival”
at my advanced age, i had come to hear first-hand finally
how Black people struggled to preserve at least a part of their past
in my otherwise beloved birth-country
some were held as slaves between the 14th and 20th century,
suffering under the Ottoman regime’s fire;
others, as Mr. Olpak said, “ascended into rank” within that empire

as we all are aware,
power structures come and go
that is the call
one day, each of them will fall
the oppressed survive them despite it all,
and cultural accounts in the likes of Mr. Olpak’s,
thankfully, take hold

still . . .

as a “white” woman of Turkey, i am in despair
because for this horrifying shame, there is no repair
going through all kinds of emotions,
i am desperate to spread the word,
for whatever it might be worth

in my concluding thoughts,
i am reminded of a profound Tolstoy-quote:
“I simply want to live; to cause no evil to anyone but myself.”

looking back, way back, as well as viewing my here and now
one dominating fact surrounds my entire life, and it remains intact:
no one ‘caused me any evil but myself’

not even once did i have the need to tell anyone that i want to live
i just lived, and was let be

because i am being seen as “a white”, you see . . .

~ ~ ~
This poem was included in I Want to Live, an international anthology published on March 1st, 2021 by Inner Child Press, AKA Inner Child Press International.

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Poems, continued . . .

Come Closer!

I am known as “The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum”.
I have embraced my fame.
If you are the same, we all have everything to gain.

Come closer! Much closer! Do not fear!
I am here for you to see.

Can you not hear the beatings of my heart?

Listen to that which is inside me,
and you will know right away
we are, in fact, not that far apart.

*This poem was one of my three with which I had contributed to the January 2021 issue of The Year of the Poet VIII, published by Inner Child Press International.

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“Emory Douglas”

Emory Douglas

1968
Summer Olympics
The medalists’ podium for the 200-meter race

America’s own two Black athletes,
Tommie Smith and John Carlos –
One, the recipient of the gold medal;
The other, a silver-medalist

Visual history depicts these winners’ fists
Inside black gloves as they raise them into air

To bring to the attention of the world
The centuries-long oppression of Blacks,
AKA the good ole American way

As Smith and Carlos make their unspoken voices heard,
Their medals are being taken away

Standing against the brutally discriminatory
and fear-, hatred- and violence-filled white-domination
is enough reason to strip them both
of their justly earned honors,
you say?

Nay!

A white Australian runner, Peter Norman –
A silver-medalist, chooses to stay with his fellow athletes,
Though sans fist, to show solidarity
He thus lends hope to humanity
And reminds us all of the foundation of our existence:
Unity within diversity. Unconditionally. All-inclusively.
Watching unjust actions unfold for even one of us silently
Is, after all, complicity. Put simply.

Still . . .
The Black athletes
Get their Olympic medals stripped off
They had, however, earned them justly

Promising careers, ruined . . .
In the hands of the white powers that be

How about the rights to practice Civil Rights advocacy?

Huh, what a laugh!

Such freedom for Blacks does not come for free!

In the year of 2014,
A visual art project, “We Can Be Heroes”,
Makes waves across the borders of many a country
The piece is crafted collaboratively
Between the Australian artist Richard Bell
And the American graphic designer Emory Douglas

Bell and Douglas not only eternalize
For the 1968 Olympic medalists
Their moments of protest on an Olympic-athlete stage,  
The stance they took against discrimination and inequality;
But also demonstrate injustices to be witnessed globally

As it is evident throughout the volume in your possession,
Our collective efforts geared toward poeticizing
Some segments of the once diligently-recorded reality
Jointly, we are anon sharing the marvel of a phenomenon;
Namely, how Bell’s concept of ‘Liberation Art’,
Coupled with Douglas’ talent in design and illustration,
Grew larger than life and entered the annals of history
In the form of a silent yet utterly vocal iconography

*This poem is one of the three I have submitted to the February issue of The Year of the Poet VIII published by Inner Child Press International.

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“A Simple and Silent Gesture” – New Poem

A Simple and Silent Gesture

It is August 26 in the year of 2016
in the good ole US of A.
Colin Rand Kaepernick sits in the bench
during the anthem in San Francisco
to raise awareness . . .
because “the country oppresses black people
and people of color.”
He was known not to have stood for the anthem before.

That date passes by.

Writers of headlines get busy,
when Kaepernick sits down again a day later.

Reactions are two-fold: some condemn him,
and others applaud.

The NFL speaks up,
citing the lack of any requirement on their behalf
for their athletes to stand up for the anthem.

After three days, former NFL player
and ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer has a suggestion
for this young man of higher consciousness:
“kneel rather than sit.”

Kaepernick kneels before a game on September 1st, 2016
and goes on record with his plan for a donation
of $1 million to organizations that support his intent,
as I have noted earlier, “to raise awareness”
for the centuries-long systemic racism in the country.

September 11, 2016 marks the first full day
of the regular season.
Several players kneel during the anthem.

On Sept. 27, 2016, Kaepernick becomes the subject
of harsh criticism from the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The young man responds: “He always says make America great again.
Well, America has never been great for people of color.
That’s something that needs to be addressed.
Let’s make America great for the first time.”

Kaepernick plays his final NFL game on January 1st, 2017.
The 49ers plan to cut him.
He opts out of his contract instead.

The month of September of the same year
witnesses players’ kneeling before
and / or during the anthem
without the civil rights activist in the league.

In the following month,
Kaepernick files a grievance against NFL team owners.
He cites collusion to keep him out of the league.

The powers that be, unfortunately, have a final say.
NFL season ends on December 31, 2017,
having made certain that this epic role model
for equal justice remains unemployed.
Less than a year afterward, NFL owners construct a rule
banning kneeling during the anthem.
It is ‘president’ Trump now . . . as he has made it
into the People’s House. He applauds the divisive initiative.
NFL owners soon retract the rushed rule
because of its divisiveness.

As the second straight season begins –
sans the name “Kaepernick” on a roster,
some players still kneel . . .

The third NFL season enters the world’s calendar,
and ends eventually.

No Kaepernick.

Following the murder of George Floyd, a black man,
on May 25, 2020, nationwide protests begin.
Numerous other sports organizations
join the cause of awareness,
to include the NBA, Baseball, and many more.
Kaepernick offers support.

A few months later, the NFL apologizes, denounces racism
and delivers a promise to further promote social justice.

Thank you for your simple and silent gesture,
dear Mr. Kaepernick.
Your gentle voice was and continues to be
loud enough to stay at the core
of many an equality-for all-seeking soul.
Hopefully, for us all, generations to come
will embrace your contribution to humanity,
understanding and knowing that social injustice
is our common enemy.
Thank you for showing this ‘white’ woman
that which we all-inclusively must fear.
So, in humble solidarity,
I, too, kneel.
Ever so respectfully.       

*This poem is one of my three submitted for the February issue of The Year of the Poet VIII to be published by Inner Child Press International.

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Ali Eymen’ime

Ali Eymen’ime, Doğum Günü’nde

İlk Dansımız

Anneciğinin ve babacığının odasında
Yerleştirdik seni önce.
Senle ben daha sonra
Geçtik yedek odanıza.
Yapışık uyudum ben senin sepetine.
Biraz huzursuzlanmıştın sen bir gece.
Çok hafif bir ışık açtım sana.
Kurdum bir de sepet-üstü
“Mobile” oyuncağını.
Onun müziği eşliğinde
Başladık ikimiz ilk dansımıza.
Adeta uçuyordum ben bulutlar üstünde.
Mis kokun, sıcacık masum bebek nefesin
Mest etmişti beni.
Sakinledin sen hemen.
Gene de bırakamadım yerine seni.
Kucağım etti ısrar ve de isyan,
Ayırırsam ben seni benden diye, olur ya.
Kucakladım defalarca o mucize güzelliğini,
Ama dikkat ederek seni uyandırmamaya.
Kokladım her bir yerini belki de yüzlerce kere.
Seni yatırdığımda sepetine,
Bomboş kalmıştı içim.
Pek bir mutluydum ama.
Dalmıştın sen bir kez daha
O huzurlu, melek uykuna.

Our First Dance

Your crib was set up
In the room of your
Mommy and Daddy.
Their spare room
Was serving you and me.
I had glued myself ecstatically
To your you-scented bassinet in there.
One night, sleep escaped you again.
I started your mobile toy
And dimmed the lights.
Then began our first dance.
I was flying atop the clouds.
Your gift of a heavenly scent,
Your sweet, innocent baby-breaths
Had enchanted my aging soul.
You calmed down. Fast.
Still, I could not lay you down.
My arms insisted with a frown . . .
I could not part myself from you.
I hugged your miracle-beauty.
Who knows how many times?
But I did so as softly as I could be.
I inhaled your scent repeatedly.
The moment I lowered you
Into your slumber-bay,
A sense of void came to me to stay.
I felt so empty but was very happy.
For you had fallen peacefully
Into your usual angelic sleep. 

From Canlarım, My Lifeblood, my book of Turkish and English poetry (Private Edition, published in December 2019 by Inner Child Press International)

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“Daddy”

Daddy

in the tongue i learned from you and Mommy . . .

kaç kere gördüm kendimi
o kaşığı ve çorba tasını tutarken titrek ellerimle
her seferinde senin beni
kah tam tanır kah başkasıyla karıştırır
ama o bana hep sevgiyle bakan
öpüp koklayan okşayan
senden aldığım renkteki
anlayış şefkat dolu gözlerin üzerimde
Hülişim! Nasılsın kızım?
hayatının belki de en zor o gününün akşamında
nasıl oldu da diyebildim ki ben sana
“Sakın gelme baba!
İnan, ikimiz de perişan oluruz sonra.”
tamam sen hastaydın hem de epeyce
çoğumuzun ruhu duymuyorken
yaşlanmıştın çok hem de pek çok
her sevenimizin bildiği o keskin hafızan
artık değildi bize en yakın dün kadar
bana gelince . . .

tamam
kronik hastalığımdan edinmişim bir yoldaş
beni hiç bir zaman eski halime bırakmayacak
tamam
kendim ancak kendime yetebilen
ruhen bedenen madden
olsun!
ne olduysa olsun!
ne olursa olsun!

nasıl oldu da çıkabildi ağzımdan
o upuzun yoluna ta okyanus üzerinden
nankörlükle yoldaşlaşan
telefonumun o buz gibi ahizesine
sana doğru yola çıkan
o kalbimden silinesi kahrolası sözlerim?
senin nefesini duyabilen
iyice çökmüş ciğerlerinin
neredeyse üzerinde deri kalmamış
bedeninin üstündeki aciz iniş çıkışları gören
her bir hemşireye nasıl imrendim ah bir bilsen!
hele ki sana yemeğini verene
hem sana her gün bakarken hem de arkandan . . .
ne zihnim ne de kalbim
bana rahat nefes aldırmaz oldu
aldırmayacak da canım babam
hele ki ağabeyim senin o son resmini
bana gönderdiğinden beri

ölesiye üzgünüm hala Babacığım

beni affet ne olursun!
seni çok sevdim hep
hep seviyorum
seveceğim de hep
ne de olsa hala
senin her zamanki „Hüliş“inim ben
sana kendi son nefesine kadar minnettar
sana minikliğinden beri yolunu hiç şaşırmadan
hayran mı hayran „Hüliş“in

in the tongue of another . . .

how many times have i imagined myself
holding that spoon and the soup-bowl
caressing your occasionally cognizant
but mostly unaware eyes
seeing in me someone else
your eyes that always glowed
with love, compassion, understanding,
and forgiving me, giving me hugs
in warmest soul-comforting kisses
those My Daddy-eyes
which gifted mine
with their hazel-color

Hülişim! How are you, my girl?
. . .

how could i possibly utter those words
in the night of your most-troubled day?
Don’t come over, baba.
Believe me, we will
Both be miserable.

true

you were seriously ill

true

your mental you-ness
was declining so fast

true
your routinely sharp and expansive memory
famed among all our beloveds
was no longer intact

true
my by now-loyal for life-companion
that chronic physical dis-ease
would not even for a second
leave my side
true
i barely was enough
for my own self
psychologically
physically
financially
still!

how could i utter those cursed self-cursing curse-able
     words?
those damn-able haunting ungrateful words?
words that frivolously escaped my heart
and seeped through my iced-up receiver
on to their troubled self-troubling path
all the way over the ocean
to those My Daddy-eyes
. . .

i wish you knew, Babişim
how i envied then and after you passed
each one of your nurses who was there for you
who heard your faint yet still-breathing breaths
who saw how under your barely there-skin
your lungs still pumped their instinctive air faintly

i covet still today
in times of my grave despair
that one particular nurse
the one who is busy beaming happily
while she is feeding you your soup

as the photograph of you
has related succinctly to me
the second to last photo that is
the one that my brother sent to me
neither my mind nor my heart
lets me take a guilt-free breath anymore
i am so sorry, canım Babam!
please forgive me!

i have always loved you

i love you today

i will love you every day
i am after all still your “Hüliş”
the one who has always been
your unwavering devoted admirer

i am in eternal gratitude for you
a fact that will never ever sway
even then when my last breath
is finally on its way

From: this and that, published on January 5, 2019 by Inner Child Press International

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“A Pained Yearning”

A Pained Yearning

The Sun and I talk to each other every day about you and how I stayed away. I never had much to offer in terms of worldly gifts. My love for you, however, is forever there. Unlike my words, it never hesitates. It is thunderous. It is wondrous. It is here to stay.

Fast and furious, the urge to be around you roars over me once more. One more evening has arrived after another day without you. 24 more hours have come and gone. Yet, my old frame is still the same one.

Though I loved and will love you infinitely, my outer Self is known for its negligent expressions. Of this flaw, even my One-and-Only had her share. My thoughtless ways of the past undress my soul today, leaving it totally bare.

Forgive me for my phone calls’ rarity! Forgive me for all those times when I was absent from your lives! Forgive me for who I am not and have not been able to be.

You have loved me unconditionally. I know, I have missed my chance to be with you as often as I could. I wish wholeheartedly once again that I would be understood. 

From my Letter-Poems from a Beloved (published on June 21, 2020 by Inner Child Press, Ltd.)

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“Against the Stream”

Against the Stream

My nap was quite troubled.
A vivid dream sequence haunted me.
Though utterly disturbing,
I will never call it a nightmare.
You were in it. You, in all your beauty.

We didn’t move our lips even once,
but we did talk. Quite extensively.
I was not yet retired; just done with the day.
You appeared to me when I was ready to go home.
I was tired. In fact, exhausted. In dire need for a ride.

You looked about 40.
8 years before your death.
As well-dressed as always,
still donning a set of full hair.
Cancer-free as I have best known you to be.

For barely a minute, I was in my office
to get a few more items and my coat;
you were gone the next moment.
I found myself outside. Feeling lost.
We were to meet by your car. Near the garden.
Both, non-existent in reality.

Crowds began to gather around my suddenly little self.
There was no sight of you anywhere.
Only bodies, countless bodies, walking aimlessly.
A gigantic fish tank then appeared right before my eyes.
The garden behind it seemed so far away. Unreachab-ly far away.

I wish that I could have stayed in the realm of my nap.
If only I had stayed asleep for a few more moments!
I would have found you. I would have hugged and kissed you
one more time. Not for the last time, but one more time.

(c) hülya n. yılmaz, November 21, 2020

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