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Sherko Bekas, 'When I Was a Child'

Sherko Bekas (1940-2013), 'When I Was a Child'

(translated from the Kurdish by Muhammed Chawsawa and A.M. Levinson-LaBrosse)


When I was a child,

My left hand wished,
Similar to our neighbor’s well dressed children,
To have a watch.
I mourned.
My mother could only biteChild
My wrist:
With her teeth, 
She would draw a watch.
Oh, that delighted me! 

When I was a child,
The meaning of happiness
Was: in the bath,
The bubbles, lanterns of green and red 
That I made
Puffed from the soap foam.

When I was a child,
In winter,
In the heat of the hearth,
I would sit
Looking at the embers,
Bright and blossoming,
I wished,
As a child,
To go into the embers,
To sit down,
To make them home!

When I was a child, many evenings
I was sent to Mrs. Manija’s house
To buy pickles.
That taste so delicious because,
After looking over my shoulder,
At the narrow alley’s switchback,
In one or two shots, 
I snuck the juice from the glass.

When I was a child,
Love meant to me:
The night before the feast,
Till morning, till my eyes opened,
With me, in an embrace, 
slept my new shoes.

When I grew up,
My left hand saw
Many real, beautiful watches
But none like the watch 
Fitted by my mother’s teeth
On my fore and upper arm,
None could please me that much.

When I grew up,
None of my room’s forty lamps and lights
Could, like the bubbles of the soap foam,
Make me chuckle.

When I grew up,
I didn’t make any flame of my stove
A home to live in.

When I grew up, no food

Tasted as that shot of pickle juice did.

When I grew up,
I didn’t bring any shirts, ties, and new suits
Into my bed
As I did with my feast-day shoes,
The ones that, my eyes wide in anticipation,
Slept with me, in an embrace - - 
None of them, none of them!

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