I am listening to Istanbul

I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed;
At first there blows a gentle breeze
And the leaves on the trees
Softly flutter or sway;
Out there, far away,
The bells of water carriers incessantly ring;
I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed;
Then suddenly birds fly by,
Flocks of birds, high up, in a hue and cry
While nets are drawn in the fishing grounds
And a woman’s feet begin to dabble in the water.
I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.
The Grand Bazaar is serene and cool,
A hubbub at the hub of the market,
Mosque yards are brimful of pigeons,
At the docks while hammers bang and clang
Spring winds bear the smell of sweat;
I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed;
Still giddy since bygone bacchanals,
A seaside mansion with dingy boathouses is fast asleep,
Amid the din and drone of southern winds, reposed,
I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.
Now a dainty girl walks by on the sidewalk:
Cusswords, tunes and songs, malapert remarks;
Something falls on the ground out of her hand,
It’s a rose I guess.
I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.

I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed;
A bird flutters round your skirt;
I know your brow is moist with sweat
And your lips are wet.
A silver moon rises beyond the pine trees:
I can sense it all in your heart’s throbbing.
I am listening to Istanbul, intent, my eyes closed.

~ Orhan Veli Kanik; translated by Talat Sait Halman

Mystery solved.

I came to know about this poem through a work project where we partnered with John Malkovich to create a short film, “A Postcard from Istanbul“. There is no dialogue in the picture except for this poem, which was written by Turkish poet Orhan Veli Kanik (1914-1950).

I am listening to Istanbul depicts a single day in Istanbul. I love the rhythm of the poem and the images it conjures in my mind, a perfect portrayal of the spirit and beauty of this timeless city.

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