Tag Archives: homesickness

missing the primal id


i yearn to a burn for the original self

ache once again to come to life there

this time not for myself to torch my self

but for the waves to sear to death my sphere

to lull my cleansed eternal birth

upending the end to its final girth

as if to lay down to sleep the infant self


~ This poem was one of my three contributions for the upcoming August 2015 issue of The Year of the Poet, a monthly book series published by Inner Child Press, Ltd.

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Nazım Hikmet (1902-1963): A lover – of women and his country of birth

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At times, we believe what we want to believe, don’t we?  Similarly, we refuse to believe what others may claim?  Such as an attribute given to a well-known poet?  Just like I do, with Nazım (I don’t even want to refer to him with his full name – it feels so very alien and impersonal…), the world-renowned Turkish exile poet.  I never believed he was a traitor, as claimed by some officials of Turkey in the past (there was a retraction of such claims after Nazım’s death), nor a womanizer (but a lover of love, one woman at a time). When this most influential writer died (on exile, craving to be in his country of birth), I was a mere eight year-old.  My passionate engagement with his poetry and other writings have everything to do with the development and intensification of my own interest.  Not because of schooling on his persona and work, or parental introduction (on the contrary: I believe my father was also under the negative influence of one of Turkey’s population segment; my mother always remained neutral – she wouldn’t comment at all, I suspected she, too, liked him outside the norm…).  The more I actively read Nazım’s written word, the more drawn I became to everything he stood for.  Let’s call him my very first crush, okay?  Incredibly handsome, a stellar composer of poetry, the center of attention of the entire country – for this or that reason, immensely influential nationally as well as abroad: a timeless love, to admit.  For today, I have for us two examples from his poetry – not at all the most frequently cited ones, by the way.  Both works address his love for which he was known to have possessed an extraordinary passion: one, to a woman (“Ben senden önce ölmek isterim”, “I want to die before you”); the other (“Sen”, “You”), to Turkey, his country of birth – one among his numerous poems of homesickness.  It is not any time of anniversary for Nazım.  I am reminiscing him simply because during most of my awake times, he is in my heart and mind.  For, at this stage in my life, I finally am aware more of his value for and contributions to world literature – a subject matter of my special interest as far as my professional undertaking.  I hope you will enjoy this short journey in to a glorious past of the Turkish civilization of contemporary times – an aspect of the country that today is fading away fast and under the harshest possible forces.


senden önce ölmek isterim.
Gidenin arkasından gelen
gideni bulacak mı zannediyorsun?
Ben zannetmiyorum bunu.
İyisi mi, beni yaktırırsın,
odanda ocağın üstüne korsun
içinde bir kavanozun.
Kavanoz camdan olsun,
şeffaf, beyaz camdan olsun
ki içinde beni görebilesin…
Fedakârlığımı anlıyorsun :
vazgeçtim toprak olmaktan,
vazgeçtim çiçek olmaktan
senin yanında kalabilmek için.
Ve toz oluyorum
yaşıyorum yanında senin.
Sonra, sen de ölünce
kavanozuma gelirsin.
Ve orda beraber yaşarız
külümün içinde külün,
ta ki bir savruk gelin
yahut vefasız bir torun
bizi ordan atana kadar…
Ama biz
o zamana kadar
o kadar
ki birbirimize,
atıldığımız çöplükte bile zerrelerimiz
yan yana düşecek.
Toprağa beraber dalacağız.
Ve bir gün yabani bir çiçek
bu toprak parçasından nemlenip filizlenirse
sapında muhakkak
iki çiçek açacak :
biri sen
biri de ben.
daha ölümü düşünmüyorum.
Ben daha bir çocuk doğuracağım.
Hayat taşıyor içimden.
Kaynıyor kanım.
Yaşayacağım, ama çok, pek çok,
ama sen de beraber.
Ama ölüm de korkutmuyor beni.
Yalnız pek sevimsiz buluyorum
bizim cenaze şeklini.
Ben ölünceye kadar da
bu düzelir herhalde.
Hapisten çıkmak ihtimalin var mı bu günlerde?
İçimden bir şey :
belki diyor.

                                                                18 Şubat 1945
Piraye Nâzım Hikmet


My translations of both poems – in the hope that I do some justice to their magnificence:

I want to die before you (“Ben senden önce ölmek isterim”)

February 18, 1945 – To Piraye [It is also argued that this rare find was a poem Piraye wrote to Nazım, instead of Nazım to Piraye.]


I want to die before you

Do you think the one who comes after will find the one who is gone?

I don’t think so.

You’d better have me cremated,

you can place me atop the wood burner in your room inside a jar.

Let the jar be of glass,

transparent, white glass

so that you can see me inside…

You understand my sacrifice:

I give up becoming a piece of the soil,

I give up becoming a flower

just to be next to you.

And I turn to dust

living next to you.

Then, when you also die

you can join me in my jar.

And there, we will live together

your ashes, within my ashes,

until a careless daughter-in-law

or a disloyal grandchild

throws us out of there…

But we will intertwine in each other

until then, so that.

once thrown in to the garbage,

even there, our particles will fall next to one another.

We will dive in to the soil together.

And one day, if a wild flower

should find water and bloom out of this piece of soil

on its stem, two flowers will open:

one you

one I.

I don’t think of death yet.

I will give birth to one more child.

Life explodes out of me.

My blood boils.

I will live, and much, very much,

but you, also.


death doesn’t scare me, either.

I just find our burial style too distasteful.

I assume that will correct itself until I die.

Is there a chance you will be let free [of imprisonment] these days?

Something inside me says: maybe.











Sen (You)

You are my slavery and freedom,

my burning flesh – as it were a naked summer night,

you are my home.

You, green ripples in her hazel eyes,

you, big, beautiful and victorious

and my longing, the more unattainable whenever neared…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As always, I wish you all a wonderful Sunday and an equally wonderful week! I very much look forward to your visit next time.

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Filed under Reflections

“our ties to home”

The video below shows Elzara Batalova , of Crimean Tatar background, singing “Ey Güzel Qırım” (“Oh, You Beautiful Crimea”), a ballad in one of the many Turkic languages :

Hers is a song of nostalgia, of the passionate longing for home, as the following refrain – one of several – articulates:

I haven’t lived in this place

Haven’t been able to realize my old age

Have been yearning for home

Oh, you beautiful Crimea

I don’t know how many of you have been born outside the United States, neither do I have any insight into whether you miss your birthplace – no matter where it is.  As some or maybe all of you already know (About), I was born and raised in Turkey and lived there until the age of twenty-four.  Although, my move to North America is not about a migrant’s story, an opinion page in New York Times on immigrants and the overall global trend to leave home recently got my attention.  Unlike some other articles I had encountered over the thirty-six years I lived and worked in the States, the treatment of this issue by Dr. Susan J. Matt , a professor of history at Weber State University – and the author of Homesickness: An American History , is psychology-based.  The facts, figures and statistics, I will leave behind.  Should the topic appeal to your interest, you can easily locate the source (in my blog roll).

Based on her “nearly a decade’s research” on the subject, Prof. Matt first informs us in “The New Globalist Is Homesick” as follows: “The global desire to leave home arises from poverty and necessity, but it also grows out of a conviction that such mobility is possible.”  She then adds that “it also has high psychological costs” and that “many people who leave home in search of better prospects end up feeling displaced and depressed.”  Foremost important to me on a personal level is what she states next: “Few speak openly of the substantial pain of leaving home.”  We learn from her article how in the 19th century “[s]tories of the devastating effects of homesickness were common [… (e.g.] ‘Victim of Nostalgia: A Priest Dies Craving for a Sight of his Motherland.”)  What the article highlights next is, to me, a first-time fact:    “Today, explicit discussions of homesickness are rare, for the emotion is typically regarded as an embarrassing impediment to individual progress and prosperity.  This silence makes mobility appear deceptively easy.”

Here, I invite us to pause briefly in order to get into my head, approximately three decades ago: At a time, when I was craving to be back home.  My mother was the main reason for my longing, along with my youth love I had left behind.  With the exception of my letters to her and a few jotted notes, I, too, had kept my silence about the deeply rooted ache I used to feel. With my mother’s death, my letters also vanished. As for those scattered notes, I may eventually find them during another move, whenever that may happen.  Imagine now, if you please, my conditions to leave my home country as opposed to those Matt analysed: There was no necessity for me to leave my home country.  I left to pursuit my passion to further my studies.  Poverty was not an issue, either.  Still, during my first years here, I experienced feelings of immense loss.

“Technology also seduces us into thinking that migration is painless [,]” writes Matt and argues: If today’s ways of rapid communication “could truly vanquish homesickness and make us citizens of the world, Skype, Facebook, cellphones and e-mail would have cured a pain that has been around since ‘The Odyssey’.”  She also announces: “Homesickness continued to plague many who migrated.”  Her argument finds support in her own research of the Archives of General Psychiatry, regarding, for instance, the “rates of depression and anxiety” among “Mexican immigrants in the United States” being “40 percent higher than nonmigrant relatives remaining in Mexico.  A wealth of studies have documented that other newcomers to America also suffer from high rates of depression and ‘acculturative stress’.”  Matt ends her findings by stressing how limited “the cosmopolitan philosophy” is: “The idea that we can and should feel at home anyplace on the globe is based on a worldview that celebrates the solitary, mobile individual and envisions men and women as easily separated from family, from home and from the past. But this vision doesn’t square with our emotions, for our ties to home, although often underestimated, are strong and enduring.”

On a personal level, I admit to a realization at this stage in my life how strong and enduring my ties to home have, in fact, been.  When I say home, it is not even my birthplace I speak of.  It is, rather, that of my mother and of seven generations on her family side. When the name alone comes up – Sinop, the small harbor town that housed Diogenes, I face the oddest phenomenon of my entire life so far: A primal urge to be there.  Since I can’t, I have scenario-rich dreams about it; I composed one, to me one of my most illustrious and longest but also most meaningful poems for it; I lived the most exhilarating three-and-a-half months of my life in it; I mourned and continue to mourn the loss of my mother’s inheritance from it.  I have even gone to such extent to add to my living will for my ashes to be spread to its sea.

I believe to no longer underestimate my ties to home – the way I had been for long , neither do I undermine the fact how strong and enduring that connection can be.  As if our umbilical cord is still attached not only to our mothers but to our birthplaces at large as well.

I now end here with the hope that you will come back, perhaps even with your own story of leaving home, or, just because.  Before I do, however, I want to give you “Sinop Aşkı” (“Love of/for Sinop”), a short video (4:37) with still  images of the town, accompanied by modern Turkish Folk music.  The second video is a longer and live introductory piece in English (25:16).  We have started with a music piece.  Why not end on one.

I very much look forward to your next visit.



Filed under Reflections