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by Cahit Külebi,
translated by Vicki Tuncer
and Baran Tuncer

When someone mentions Paris,
I think of a woman with a smoky voice.
She sings late into the night.
Her chest rises and falls.

Even though the customers are bored
They all still listen to the woman.
The song is about infidelity.
It is not right to get up and leave.

Light is reflected in the goblets
Waiting to be emptied.
And smoke, the color or raki with water,
settles in the streets.

Without a break the woman sings
Passionately until morning.
I have never been to Paris,
But those who went saw it.


Cahit Külebi (1917-1997) was a Turkish poet, whose major works and influence were in the 1940s.  His verse tried to bridge the divide between the folk traditions and more formal, written poetry.  In 1983, after the Generals’ Coup, he helped found the Motherland party (formerly ANAP) along with Turgut Özal who became the first Prime Minister after the Generals began returning power.

I was tickled by this poem on my morning reading because it so cleverly sets out this modern “nostalgia” for that which we have never seen.  It is also unlike most of the poems in the volume which are of the anguish and pain of the poor in Anatolia, or longing and desire for a missing loved one.

raki” is a strong anise flavored alcohol, like Greek ouzo, over which water is often poured, creating a white milky/smoky liquid — called ‘lion’s milk’ by some.

see also Children, and Story.