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"Since I've Been In Jail" by Nâzım Hikmet

Nâzım Hikmet Ran (1902–1963) was a Turkish poet and playwright, who was arrested and imprisoned several times for political beliefs and activism that the Turkish government found unfavorable. This poem (originally titled Ben Içeri Düştüğümden Beri, translated to English here) comments on the relativity of time, as experienced by a prisoner in relation to events outside the prison walls.

Ben Içeri Düştüğümden Beri

(Since I've Been In Jail)

Since I've been in jail the world has turned around the sun ten times And if you ask the earth, it will say: "It's not worth mentioning, a microscopic time." And if you ask me, I will say: "It's ten years of my life." I had a pencil the year I came to jail. It wore out in a week from writing. And if you ask the pencil, it will say: "A whole life." And if you ask me, I will say: "It's nothing, a mere week." Osman who was jailed for murder completed a seven-year stretch and left since I've been in jail. He wandered around outside for a while, and then got jailed again for smuggling. He served a six-month term and left again, and yesterday a letter came saying he's married and a child will be born in the spring. Now they're ten years old the children who fell from their mothers' womb that year I came to jail, And the colts of that year who had long thin shaky legs have long since become docile broad-rumped mares. But the olive shoots are still shoots and they're still children. New squares have opened up in my distant city since I've been in jail. And our family is living in a house I've never seen on a street I don't know. The bread was pure white, like cotton, the year I came to jail. Later it was rationed out, And we here on the inside beat one another for a piece of black crust the size of a fist. Now it's free again, But brown and tasteless. The year I came to jail The Second One had just begun. The ovens in Dachau Camp were not yet lit, The atom bomb was not yet hurled upon Hiroshima. Time flowed like the blood of a child with his throat cut. Later that chapter was officially closed, Now American dollars are talking about a Third. But in spite of everything, the days have brightened since I've been in jail, And about half of them "put their heavy hands on the pavement and on the edge of darkness straightened up." Since I've been in jail the world has turned around the sun ten times. And again I repeat with the same passion what I wrote for them the year I came to jail: "They whose number is as great as ants on the earth fish in the water birds in the sky are fearful and brave ignorant and learned and they are children, And they who destroy and create it is only their adventure in these songs." And for the rest, for example, my lying here for ten years, it's nothing...

Read more about Hikmet's life and work here.

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