Letters From A Man In Solitary Poem by Nazim Hikmet

Letters From A Man In Solitary

Rating: 3.4

I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don't have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won't give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I'm not allowed
to see the sky overhead...
How many others are in this place?
I don't know.
I'm alone far from them,
they're all together far from me.
To talk anyone besides myself
is forbidden.
So I talk to myself.
But I find my conversation so boring,
my dear wife, that I sing songs.
And what do you know,
that awful, always off-key voice of mine
touches me so
that my heart breaks.
And just like the barefoot orphan
lost in the snow
in those old sad stories, my heart
-- with moist blue eyes
and a little red runny rose --
wants to snuggle up in your arms.
It doesn't make me blush
that right now
I'm this weak,
this selfish,
this human simply.
No doubt my state can be explained
physiologically, psychologically, etc.
Or maybe it's
this barred window,
this earthen jug,
these four walls,
which for months have kept me from hearing
another human voice.

It's five o'clock, my dear.
with its dryness,
eerie whispers,
mud roof,
and lame, skinny horse
standing motionless in infinity
-- I mean, it's enough to drive the man inside crazy with grief --
outside, with all its machinery and all its art,
a plains night comes down red on treeless space.

Again today, night will fall in no time.
A light will circle the lame, skinny horse.
And the treeless space, in this hopeless landscape
stretched out before me like the body of a hard man,
will suddenly be filled with stars.
We'll reach the inevitable end once more,
which is to say the stage is set
again today for an elaborate nostalgia.
the man inside,
once more I'll exhibit my customary talent,
and singing an old-fashioned lament
in the reedy voice of my childhood,
once more, by God, it will crush my unhappy heart
to hear you inside my head,
so far
away, as if I were watching you
in a smoky, broken mirror...

It's spring outside, my dear wife, spring.
Outside on the plain, suddenly the smell
of fresh earth, birds singing, etc.
It's spring, my dear wife,
the plain outside sparkles...
And inside the bed comes alive with bugs,
the water jug no longer freezes,
and in the morning sun floods the concrete...
The sun--
every day till noon now
it comes and goes
from me, flashing off
and on...
And as the day turns to afternoon, shadows climb the walls,
the glass of the barred window catches fire,
and it's night outside,
a cloudless spring night...
And inside this is spring's darkest hour.
In short, the demon called freedom,
with its glittering scales and fiery eyes,
possesses the man inside
especially in spring...
I know this from experience, my dear wife,
from experience...

Sunday today.
Today they took me out in the sun for the first time.
And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life
by how far away the sky is,
how blue
and how wide.
Then I respectfully sat down on the earth.
I leaned back against the wall.
For a moment no trap to fall into,
no struggle, no freedom, no wife.
Only earth, sun, and me...
I am happy.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

Practicing Poetess 05 February 2019

What a sad poem capturing the futility of being in solitary confinement.

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Tom Allport 05 February 2019

A thoughtful write of a life trapped in the cell of a living? ....

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Dr Antony Theodore 05 February 2019

Today they took me out in the sun for the first time. And I just stood there, struck for the first time in my life by how far away the sky is, how blue and how wide. a very good poem. tony

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Rajnish Manga 05 February 2019

A very sensational narrative from a solitary confinement with a meticulous description of prevailing conditions and restrictions. Thanks to the poet and the translator. I quote: No doubt my state can be explained physiologically, psychologically, etc.

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Edward Kofi Louis 05 February 2019

Dryness! ! ! Broken mirror. Thanks for sharing this poem with us.

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Nabakishore Dash 12 September 2022

A very vivid experience in confinement depicted beautifully in right words.congrats dear poet Nazis.

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Rose Marie Juan-austin 12 September 2022

A vivid and brilliant depiction of a man in solitary confinement. Powerful poetic expressions with compelling images.

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Sylvia Frances Chan 12 September 2022

A very thoughtful poem with great insight. I have enjoyed the deep philosophy in this poem.

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Chinedu Dike 29 August 2022

A thoughtful poem nicely put together with conviction

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Ratnakar Mandlik 05 February 2019

The mental set-up and bleak mind set of one undergoing solitary confinement is wonderfully mirrored through the emotive stance in this poem. Thanks for sharing and congrats modern poem of the Day.

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