THIRTY-THREE BULLETS
1.
This is the Mengene mountain
When dawn creeps up at the lake Van
This is the child of Nimrod
When dawn creeps up against the Nimrod
One side of you is avalanches, the Caucasian sky 
The other side a rug, Persia 
At mountain tops glaciers, in bunches 
Fugitive pigeons at water-pools 
And herds of deer 
And partridge flocks... 
Their courage cannot be denied 
In one-to-one fights they are unbeaten 
These thousand years, the servants of this area 
Come, how shall we give the news? 
This is not a flock of cranes 
Nor a constellation in the sky 
But a heart with thirty-three bullets 
Thirty-three rivers of blood 
Not flowing 
All calmed to a lake on this mountain 
  
  
  
  
2.
A rabbit came up from the foot of the hill 
Its back is motley 
Its belly milk-white 
A mountain rabbit, pregnant, lost up here 
Its heart heaved to its mouth, poor thing 
It can draw repentance from man. 
The hour was solitary, a solitary time 
It was faultless, naked dawn 

One of the thirty-three looked 
In his body the heavy void of hunger 
Hair and beard all tangled 
Lice on his collar 
He looked, and his arms were wounded 
This lad with hellion heart 
Looked once at the rabbit 
Then looked behind 

His delicate carbine came to his mind 
Sulking under his pillow 
Then came the young mare he brought from the plain of Harran 
Her mane blue-beaded 
A blaze on her forehead 
Three fetlocks white 
Her cantering easy and generous 
His chesnut mare 
How they had flown in front of Hozat! 
If he were not now 
Helpless and tied like this 
The cold barrel of a gun behind him 
He could have hidden on these heights 
These mountains, the friendly mountains, know your worth 
Thank God, my hands will not put me to shame 
These hands that can flick off with the first shot 
The burning tobacco ash 
Or the tongue of the viper 
Sparkling in the sun 

These eyes were not duped even once 
By the ravines waiting for avalanches 
By the soft, snowy betrayal of cliffs 
These knowing eyes 
No use 
He was going to be shot 
The order was final 
Now the blind reptiles will devour his eyes 
The vultures his heart. 
3.
In a solitary corner of the mountains 
At the hour of morning prayer 
I lie 
stretched 
Long, bloody... 

I have been shot 
My dreams are darker than night 
No one can find a good omen in them 
My life gone before its time 
I cannot put it into words 
A pasha sends a codded message 
And I am shot, without inquest, without judgment 
Kinsman, write my story as it is 
Or they might think it a fable 
These are not rosy nipples 
But a dumdum bullet 
Shattered in my mouth... 
4.
They applied the decree of death 
They stained 
The half-awakened wind of dawn 
And the blue mist of the Nimrod 
In blood 
They stacked their guns there 
Searched us 
Feeling our corpses 
They took away 
My red sash of Kermanshah weave 
My prayer beads and tobacco pouch 
And left 
Those were all gifts to me from friends 
All from the Persian lands 
 
We are guardians, relatives, tied by blood 
We exchange with families 
Across the river 
Our daughters, these many centuries 
we are neighbours 
Shoulder to shoulder 
Our chickens mingle together 
Not out of ignorance 
But poverty 
We never got used to passports 
This is the guilt that kills us 
We end up  
Being called 
Bandits 
Killers 
Traitors... 
Kinsman, write my story as it is 
Or they might think it a fable 
These are not rosy nipples 
But a dumdum bullet 
Shattered in my mouth 
5.
Shoot, bastards 
Shoot me 
I do not die easyly 
I am live under the ashes 
I have words buried in my belly 
For those who understand 
My father gave his eyes on the Urfa front 
And gave his three brothers 
Three young cypresses 
Three chunks of mountain without their share of life 
And when friends, guardians, kin 
Met the French bullets 
Out of towers, hills, minarets 
My young uncle Nazif 
His moustache still new 
Handsome 
Light 
Good horseman 
Shoot, brothers, he said 
Shoot 
This is the day of honour 
And reared his horse... 

Kindsman, write my story as it is 
Or they might think it a fable 
These are not rosy nipples 
But a dumdum bullet 
Shattered in my mouth... 
                 Ahmed AR�F  
Translated by Murat-Nemet NEJAT
 


 




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