Behçet Necatigil
ASIAN ART
 
Phosphorus

In the nocturnal obscurity of ancient tombs
Distant shrieks of bygone corpses are phosphorous.
At midnight over the old scrolls and papyri
Why does phosphorus dazzle with its pyres?

From his youthful days a man may pluck himself:
A furtive diamond beckons in dripping tunnels
If a phosphoric gleam shimmers far away
Melting candles become barely visible.

The prodigal water of early youth
Maps out a tangled course on harsh cars
P, P2O3, magnesium phosphate.
Chemistry tarries in the realms of foam;
Phosphorus sparkles in desolate rooms
With nude pinups helpless and panting.

A man may die
Just a couple of grains.
Fear gnaws into vacant brains
Floating on an alabaster viscous liquid.
When you make enough money for food
On drenched marble basins phosphorus becomes a fetus.

Sternest stones, white papers, soft dyes—
Like vacuous waters—would turn dolorous
Nor would my writing have body or form
If they were not all a little phosphorous.

Translated from the Turkish by Talât Sait Halman.


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