Two Poems

By Haydar Ergülen
Translation from the Turkish by Derick Mattern

Or perhaps death is like a Japanese tea ceremony
with silence the golden mean, in harmony and refinement,
the guests silently raising death to their lips, a sip,
then setting it down, then delicately poising it again, everything
in its proper course, at the proper hour of day, another sip,
the servants gliding in so that their thin white steps
might not break the silence of the hour and so that all is not
for nothing, death, like a serendipitous visitor, is the ceremony’s
unseen guest and thus open the curtains of pride
and knives host each day’s silent seppuku


for Şahin Şencan
Oh god, oh landlord, let me
stay in the house a while longer
I’m carrying my brother alone
after I bring him into the world I’ll go
Oh brother, oh street, let me
carry you within me a while longer
you hurl into life and out
leaving me in the world so alone
Oh life, oh cramped room, let me
seek out the poem a while longer
maybe I’ll chance upon a soul
so many brothers have I lost along the way


Turkish poet and essayist Haydar Ergülen was born in Eskişehir in 1956. Among the most prominent writers of his generation, he frequently reads and lectures throughout Turkey and internationally. He makes his home in the Cihangir neighborhood of Istanbul with his wife and daughter.

Derick Mattern’s translations of Ergülen’s work have appeared or are forthcoming in Asymptote, Gulf Coast, Copper Nickel, Circumference, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Winner of the British Centre for Literary Translation’s Young Translator Prize in 2012, he lived in Istanbul from 2008 to 2013.