You’re like a scorpion, my brother,
You live cowardly and bilious, in darkness
Like a scorpion.
You’re like a sparrow, my brother,
Always disingenuous, and in a sparrow’s flutter.
You’re like a clam, my brother,
Closed like a clam, defensive,
And you’re frightening, my brother,
Terror at the edge of thoughts,
Like the mouth of a not quite extinct
You’re like old mother Reagan, brother, with shit-
Colored gums behind subtle lip stick
And silver-dollar white-strips.
You’re not one person,
You’re not five—
Unfortunately, you’re millions…
You’re like a sheep, my brother,
With some toxin in the ear, and
When the cloaked drover raises his
You race before the rest of the flock,
Running, almost proudly, to the
I mean you’re strangest creature on
Even stranger than the fish,
So pale, with widening eyes,
That couldn’t see the ocean for the
And the oppression in this world
Is thanks to you.
If we’re starving, or we’re barb-torn
And smeared with blood,
Being crushed like grapes
To make our own wine,
The fault of it, Brother, is yours—
I can barely bring myself to say it,
But most of the fault, my
Brother, is yours.
Translated by Tom Yuill
Nazim Hikmet was born in 1902 and was a Turkish poet, novelist, and playwright. Although he was often imprisoned for his political beliefs, he is now recognized as one of Turkey’s eminent writers, and his work has been translated into more than fifty languages. He died of a heart attack in Moscow in 1963.
Tom Yuill is a poet and the author of the collection Medicine Show (2010). He is currently working on his second book of poetry, American Bull Terrier. He teaches at Old Dominion University.