1086: It's This Way by Nâzim Hikmet

20240401 SD

1086: It's This Way by Nâzim Hikmet

Today’s episode is guest hosted by Victoria Chang.


I’m Victoria Chang and this is The Slowdown

I have a funny relationship with hope. When I was young, I think I confused hope with leaving. Because my parents were a little more authoritarian than I would have liked, I was always itching to leave. Because Michigan was so down-to-the-bones cold, I couldn’t wait to get out. 

I was always thinking that my life would begin when I could leave. When I was working in jobs that weren’t always a good fit for my interests and personality, I thought that things would be better once I left. Once I had children, I thought life would be easier when they could talk. When they could walk, when they could go to school. 

But none of those feelings were hope. They were just wishing for something different. Now, I have begun to think that hope is a presentness, that perhaps hope is within the present, not the future, not in the subjunctive, the what if? For there is beauty all around us all the time. To have hope is to wake up and perceive in the now, instead of spending the little mindspace we have caught up in the future and possibility.

I just wrote something in a prose manuscript I’m working on. It goes: “It occurs to me that I will see the beginnings of certain things, maybe the middles, but not the endings. Every parent understands this intuitively. This also means I will need to learn to love beginnings more than I already do. This means I will need to measure without a total. I will only get to turn on the lamp.” 

I think that this is hope for me — knowing that I won’t be around forever, to see my children grow old, to see the eucalyptus in the backyard shed its bark every few years, but that I can transplant my future onto other people, namely the children of the world, which not only includes human children, but also the plants, the trees, the little bees being born as I type.

Today’s poem is by the Turkish poet, Nâzim Hikmet. Hikmet wrote this poem and many others while in a Turkish prison. His poems articulate hard-earned truths about the presentness of nature as hope and defiance, amidst unimaginably difficult circumstances.

It’s This Way
by Nâzim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

I stand in the advancing light,
my hands hungry, the world beautiful.

My eyes can’t get enough of the trees–
they’re so hopeful, so green.

A sunny road runs through the mulberries,
I’m at the window of the prison infirmary.

I can’t smell the medicines–
carnations must be blooming nearby.

It’s this way:
being captured is beside the point,
the point is not to surrender.

“It’s This Way” by Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk from THE POEMS OF NAZIM HIKMET © 2002 Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk. Used by permission of Persea Books.