Bejan Matur



When we were born It was our mother Who had caskets made for us And filled them with silver mirrors Dark blue stones And fabrics smuggled from Aleppo Later She would put us in those caskets And whisper in our ears Of roads And winds And mansions. To stop us being lonely in the dark She would add our childhood too To comfort us With that childhood. But when we were left In the long river whose waters streamed With blood that poured from ritual razor-slashes on our backs Our mother never wanted such an outrage And that is why We kept telling the waters While she was sleeping We moved far away. What’s left from that flight Everything, everyone is here. I am here My brothers and sisters are here with their loss My mother with her dresses My brother with his fear of war My father’s here, but not awake Around me the world has shrunk All like a dream That hurts the longer it lasts I Our mother Stroking her black velvet dress And veiling her gaze with her hair Would remember our father: She said he was on a white mountain A white mountain getting smaller every spring II When our brother Older than all of us And afraid of the distant war Never came home We too feared the war. But it wasn’t war that kept him away. On his way back He fell asleep with his horse On the snowy mountain facing our father’s As our mother’s face grew thinner And our mother’s shoulders shrank We wondered which mountain to look at III On the long veranda of our house As her velvet dress grew longer Her silver hairband heavier Her silver belt looser Our mother looked more and more Like the mountains she watched. In spring her shell was wearing out But we couldn’t reach her. She was dying Pining away She never appeared again on the veranda IV Lost every winter Returning in spring Our mother became a tree A tattooed oak Her moaning in our ears V Every night In her black velvet dress Our mother wandered among the mountains She was a rootless oak Silent, now and then weeping Before we parted We would gather in our mother’s shadow And whisper among ourselves Please God forgive us Spare our house Don’t touch our veranda Only there can we laugh Only there can we be really silent Only there can we say what we like And even if we don’t touch her We can see our mother from afar VI When the cold spell began Horsemen came to take us away Horsemen old and strange Who made us afraid Snow veiled their eyes. Without a word Not looking at our little hands They came to carry us off to the mansions Mansions howling with winds VII While our mother Slept peacefully Between our father and brother We went far away with the old horsemen. Our necks ached with looking round Our eyes narrowed at every bend. But in vain We wept in vain Our sickness was in vain The horsemen had lost the way We could never go back VIII We were like rocks rolling from the mountains. We four sisters In a valley of deepening shadow Searched for the beds No longer ours Searched for days. With every mountain we crossed We were so far from each other So alone with ourselves IX No beginning no end No inside no outside There we were In the midst of that world of stone. As our paths lengthened Our mother’s tattoos grew darker X We would all separate Where the road split. But who would be the first The first to be afraid Of the way The night And the old horseman. We were in no order We trembled at every parting of the ways. I was the last The narrow road stretched before me Gathering strength from their grief I was the traveller XI When I came to the first windswept mansion I slept for days Among copperpots and kilims. I could have loved the wind But for the doors and windows XII Ten years I spent with the wind I was cold in every mansion There’s no sense in talking I said If there can’t be a human echo I was like the silent mansions With more and more doors XIII As the horses grew fewer the silver less I moved from place to place As I neared the south I recognized the voice of the stars XIV At night The lonely foolish moon Resembled me There was something strange in my laugh I was growing up. Sometimes I thought about love Lord of the body. Nights when I couldn’t sleep I smelt of earth And on every journey I took I ignored my tiredness And daydreamed. Once when the roads no longer scared me There came a green-eyed man Who made fun of poverty As he grew older His eyes grew darker. XV I had children by that green-eyed man Two lads One joined the army, the other had red hair. And my daughter-in-law, Slept every night by my red-haired son. He was always cold ‘How warm your feet are’ He would say As he pressed closer. At thirteen the two children Went to bed whispering together. One night Rain entered his sleep. Leave me your hair Leave me your hair Said the rain And cast a spell on my son in his sleep. When I climbed the hill Where he washed his hair with wind The plain was under water. Clouds clung to the earth. I was waiting for a movement A voice From the waters hiding my son. The villagers gathered behind me With their flaming torches Reminded me of the darkness. I couldn’t stay still But went down to the steaming earth. The mud grew deeper I had no power against the dark. I feared he’d be cold And his hair dirty again. When a voice said ‘He is dead’ My son felt cold no longer He was quieter than rain. My face streaked with mud and grief I carried his body, I carried his hair in my hands. They put him facedown on the horse As it climbed the hill It was secretly shedding light. XVI In the bed abandoned by the green-eyed man I grow old gazing at the ceiling. Now My skirts are as long as my mother’s. My hair longer Than the red hair of my son. Nothing lasted long Journeys Death Mansions Around me nothing remained But pillars dark with soot I must gather my strength for the last time My hair must smell of henna There must be apple-blossom in the ritual water That washes my dead body. And if God can hear me I ask for a narrow grave To make me forget Those spacious mansions And their howling


Every river mouth is a place for being blessed a place for waiting and resting there. Every river mouth is a place for burying the happy, for their return to water and tasting the shadow of water. In every valley at night only the temple-bodies change sunk in water. The moment too short like the past a dark abyss.