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Sunday 2 November 2014

No one to rock the cradle (Nazim Hikmet: You must live with great seriousness, like a squirrel)


A cradle left behind by Syrian Kurdish refugees lies at the border near Suruc. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish troops could be used to help establish a secure zone in Syria, if there was an international agreement to set up such a haven for refugees fleeing Islamic State fighters: photo by Murad Sezer / Reuters via The Guardian, 4 October 2014

Living is no laughing matter: must live with great seriousness a squirrel, for example --
   I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
  ......I mean living must be your whole occupation.

Squirrel: photo by Prof Alex O Chevtchenko, 22 December 2012

File:Xerus inauris.jpg

Cape Ground Squirrels (Xerus inauris), near Solitaire in the Namib desert, Namibia: photo by Hans Hillewaert, 2007

File:Харьковская белка 2. Маскировка в листьях.jpg

Common squirrel in oak leaves. Protective coloration allows it to merge with the oak leaves. Kharkov Forest Park, Ukraine
: photo by Dennis Markov, 9 May 2007

Grey squirrel searching for nuts. 'These shots are from a university project based on squirrels. The photos are displaying a grey squirrel's caching behaviour. I set up a remote timer and baited the area with nuts, and waited for the squirrels to come. Once the squirrels were consistent and knew where the food was, I made it a little harder for them to retrieve the nuts. This meant that they had to dig for it, and therefore mimic the caching behaviour. So even though they were digging up the nuts instead of burying them for the winter, the same motion was recorded'
: photo by Mark Fox/
Mammal Society Photographer of the Year Competition 2013 via The Guardian 5 March 2013

 A squirrel defends its food against a pigeon after snowfall in central park in Minsk, Belarus: photo by Sergei Grits / Associated Press, 2012

Living is no laughing matter: must take it seriously, much so and to such a degree
   that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
                                            your back to the wall,
 or else in a laboratory your white coat and safety glasses, can die for people --
   even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
   even though you know living the most real, the most beautiful thing.

An olive tree, Bi'lin, West Bank: photo by elena martinez, 12 June 2009

File:Olivenbaum Korfu.jpg

Olive trees (Olea europaea ssp. europaea), Corfu, Greece
: photo by Cezanne, 16 July 2003

Olive trees on Thassos, Greece: photo by Peter Pakandl, 7 September 2006

 I mean, you must take living so seriously
   that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees --
   and not for your children, either,
   but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
   because living, I mean, weighs heavier.

Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963): from On Living, in Poems of Nazim Hikmet, translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk, 1994

 On the border between Syria and Turkey: here, a Syrian Kurdish woman waits with her daughter at the southeastern town of Suruc. Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air strikes were locked in fierce fighting to prevent the besieged border town of Ain al-Arab from falling to Islamic State fighters: photo by Bulent Kilic / AFP via The Guardian, 4 October 2014

A Palestinian boy practises his parkour skills near the ruins of houses, which witnesses said were destroyed during the seven-week Israeli offensive, in Gaza: photo by Mohammed Salem / Reuters via The Guardian, 4 October 2014

Manchester United’s Robin van Persie celebrates at Old Trafford after scoring against West Ham United: photo by Jon Super / AP via The Guardian, 27 September 2014

Enner Valencia of West Ham United is fouled by Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany during the Premier League match at Upton Park in London: photo by Tom Jenkins for The Observer, 25 October 2014

A Free Syrian Army fighter walks through a hole in the wall inside a damaged building on the frontline of Aleppo’s Al-Ezaa neighbourhood: photo by Hosam Katan/Reuters via The Guardian, 1 November 2014

 Did they just Micro Nuke #Syria? #kobani FYI Thermobarics are red. Neutron bombs use aluminum casings & are white: image via Malice Magic @malicemagic, 27 October 2014


Lally said...

Nazim Hikmet has been one of my all-time favorite poets and writers, ever since Bill Knott gave me a book of Hikmet's poems in the late 1960s. Too bad he's not around now to write about what's happened to Turkey. Have you read his novel-in-verse, Human Landscapes from my Country, Tom (translated by the same men as the poem above)?

erin said...

and so we have released the tension on living, no longer requiring our back against the wall to work for our basic needs. too much luxury and we forget the seriousness. the lax rope makes a loop and we hang ourselves. all this because we resist (and resent) our animal bodies. something so basic, so fundamental.

but we speak and so we must be better than all that!

oh, the stories we tell ourselves as we kill one another in our spare time!


Anonymous said...

so beautiful ...carpe diem Tom !

manik sharma said...


Somehow these images fit together, and the poem forms a unified caption underlining a preventive emotion, or may I say the lack of one and the presence of another, or simply, can we say the absence of absolute emotion of any kind, is also a kind of emotion? "And so with great seriousness, I must claim that I stand with my back to the wall so you can't speak behind it. But since you can blast them walls away, have your way with the word, as you can with my life, that I may no longer have a serious right to."

TC said...

Many thanks, friends.

Michael, yes, the grand Hikmet -- a masterpiece.

A few weeks ago I happened to encounter a curious couple on a Sunday along the freeway feeder, husky American guy, Turkish (as it came out) woman, in pretty party dress, evidently on way to or from wedding party, we exchanged a few courtesy words, and I said Hikmet (whom I was then reading) -- guy grew immediately bored and impatient, woman burst into radiant smile as though the mere American wedding they had attended or were about to attend counted as nothing next to the joy that envelops the word Hikmet!

(Can anyone think of an American poet who might inspire such love?)

Squirrels are definitely totally serious, in exactly that way. A neighbour here sat in his back yard feeding peanuts to squirrels for many a year. News of this charitable enterprise got out on the squirrel grapevine. Soon the large local squirrel population was getting larger. The squirrels came over and buried the peanuts in our mangy back yard (things were apparently a bit too well kept for their liking, at the free peanut source.) The fellow passed on, and gradually the squirrel gang shrank down to previous. Years went by, and the peanuts kept turning up, by now in archaeological state. It became apparent the squirrels who had buried them had retained no memory of the locations. But the peanut cemetery was so thick with peanuts by then that any foraging squirrel was sure to find a peanut somewhere, just by digging about a bit. Then it occurred to me that the caching strategy must incorporate a certain planned redundancy. And though it may have first appeared rather dumb, the strategy came more and more to seem, indeed, dead serious.

If I were that pigeon in the snow, I believe I'd concede that food scrap. The bared teeth are a certain sign of squirrel seriousness.

Like nurturing, tension, release, bodies and war -- I hear you, Erin. Up against, I guess, everything contained in or suggested by an olive tree.

Manik, you've come close to describing the unspeakable, that is, the loopy graphic matching logic which drives the visual telling of stories around here.

A film I've been watching again in my imagination, of late... one short bit.

Roy Andersson: You, the Living (Du Levande), 2007 (fragment)

"The basis for the film is an Old Norse proverb, 'Man is man's delight,' taken from the Poetic Edda poem Hávamál. The title comes from a quote in Roman Elegies by Goethe, which appears as a title card in the beginning of the film: 'Be pleased then, you, the living, in your delightfully warmed bed, before Lethe's ice-cold wave will lick your escaping foot.'"

Is it just me, or is this warming planet not also growing colder and colder... at night... as well and more and more distant...

TC said...

The Goethe line by the by put me in mind of this scene.