Morning of Jasmines by Şükrü Erbaş – translated by Derick Mattern

Cloud by cloud the heavens awoke

From god’s great solitude

Trees clustered in single chorus in the mouth of birds

In the moon’s hazy sentence, houses became illegible letters

From the scent of jasmines came a light in the streets

I went to sit in the deep blue garden of the sea

Was I a syllable of your death or of your life, I don’t know

Desire and denial had encircled me

Not sound not silence not time not place

In my mouth, the scent of milk remains from childhood

Eyelash-streams tongue-springs finger-rains

From the sands, I can hear the legends of the rocks

Mountains come forth toward morning with the compassion of the night

Oh vast host of solitude’s fallen leaves

Everything was marked in capital letters of departure

You were a bud of time on the shore of the sea

I was older than old songs, I was without belonging

And kept within me all the evenings of the world

I had words for the mornings of your mouth

Oh beauty has a strength of life greater than death

Only the dead forget one another

I had just begun to love you anew...



Şükrü Erbaş is one of Turkey’s most popular and prize-winning poets. His work delves into the natural landscape of Asia Minor, as well as its deep mystical heritage, in rich yet accessible language. Author of over a dozen books of poetry and essays, little of his work has thus far appeared in English. Born in the central Anatolian town of Yozgat, Erbaş now lives in very active retirement in the coastal city of Antalya.

Derick Mattern holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and another in literary translation from the Iowa Translation Workshop, where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow. His poems and translations have appeared widely, in Subtropics, The Adroit Journal, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Leveler, and elsewhere. He is a 2018 NEA literary translation fellow.