Four Poems by Bahtiyar Vahapzade.

Author(s): Bahtiyar Vahapzade and Talat Sait Halman
Source: World Literature Today, Vol. 70, No. 3, Literatures of Central Asia (Summer, 1996), p. 498
Published by: University of Oklahoma


You spoke,
I listened.
               So impressive:
The long silences
Were more expressive
        between words, sentences . . .

So many ideas are contained in each pause.
You spoke so,
             I saw at one point
Silence in the light, words on the shadow.
Into these end-of-sentence intervals could go
The entire lexicon of a language.

Knock the Fences Down

Everyone puts up a fence around his own field
Saying:  "On this side of the fence, mine is the yield."
Come, tear the fences down, demolish the ramparts
so that our eyes can gaze at all the distant parts.
How can the rooms contain the heart that must live free:
It should leap over hill and valley on and on.
So long as my eyes possess the power to see,
I shall keep scanning the widening horizon.
Never go the way of the flowers, of the rose, 
Never put their hearts in death's throes.
Nature is free:
Never hold
It inside the fortresses, in captivity.
We must refuse to play a game of backgammon
Sequestered into the square inlaid with gold.
Our hearts should keep growing and soaring on and on
Like the ever-broadening, endless horizon.
Come, tear the fences down, demolish the ramparts
So that our eyes can gaze at all the distant parts.

"Good and Evil"

A world voyages through the heart that feels passion,
And the earth revels in a many-splendored dress.
Some give their lives for the good of the populace;
For personal gain, some will sell out their nation.

The soil's one color nurtures a thousand colors;
Both cure and death lie in the same poisonous root;
Out of the earth sprout bushes as well as flowers:
Both good and evil are borne as the same mind's fruit.

All that is good or bad is in us --- admit it.
Neither one has a fire of its own --- now we know.
Good and bad gor arm in arm! There is no limit,
We find, to rising to the heights or stooping low.

Two Blind Men

There's a blind man I know: His eyes have no sight,
But he is not blind.
Though he sometimes gets scorched in the fire of sorrows,
He does not turn a cold shoulder to his passion and his mind.
He reads and writes day and night,
In his mind's eye he sees, feels, knows.

But . . . There is someone else . . . Although he is not blind,
He cannot see nonetheless.
His bosom friend might get killed before his very eyes,
"I saw nothing," he says.
He claims whatever is good as his, but fails to see the bad;
Looks at the clock, but can't tell what time it is.
Nothing noble visits his thoughts and feelings;
Often he denies he saw something though he really did.

A man is hardly blind if his eyes have no sight;
Blind is he who does not want to see.
To such an ignorant troglodyte,
Life itself is a grave, if you ask me.

Translated by Talat Sait Halman

Bahtiyar Vahapzade (1925-2009) is one of Azerbaijan's most prominent poets. He obtained a doctorate in philology at Azerbaijan State University, where he subsequently became  professor of modern Azeri Literature. His publication include many collections of poems and short stories, plays, travel journals, scholarly articles, and journalistic pieces. 

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