Refugee Dreams — Three Poems by Meral Şimşek

15 January, 2022,
Poet-writer-editor Meral Şimşek at home in Diyarbakir, Turkey.


TMR is pleased to present three key poems from Meral Şimşek’s poetry collection Incir Karasi or Refugee Dreams, translated here from the Turkish by Öykü Tekten. Exclusive video readings by Şimşek in the original version precede each translation. Her writing and Kurdish identity contested by the government, Şimşek’s next court date is Feb. 1, 2022.


Meral Şimşek

fig stains

when you lined up in our minds
the lies of the apple that fell from the sky
death descended into our consciousness
we dried up rivers, wore the paths off
voice of our rage extended through calendars
to find the revel of turquoise
among colors behind the fog
we became a frosted dream
was it the rose that stoke the fire?
was it the fire that kept the rose burning?
we were scattered while on a journey into the unknown
after all, the fire became ashes; the rose caught fire
without knowing, we wandered
sounds of horses’ clip clops were already drunk,
keys broken, adobe houses bereft of meaning
we memorized the pain of exile on country roads
with the burden of the land we belonged to
on each new path
stars fell on the drunk scars of our faces
our steps enamored to Nemruds
collapsed into an impossible puzzle
and left us with the wounded smiles of cities
with doleful fire and fig-stained sorrow
we wrote poems after thousands of years
in the summer palaces of stammering time in angry dreams
O, sons of Adam, we learned
the secret to the cycle of life
what does “nothing” mean in the soul fire?
how about the scale mark of truth
in the courtyard that gnaws the heart?



my childhood on the run

i take refuge in the grieving skin of a fractured night
i am not alone, my childhood is on the run
from the cliffs towards me
with torn shoes
my childhood is on the run
in the lariated cities of my life
every step shatters the words
stained by a dark curse
crowding the houses with minarets
my childhood runs towards the countries inside my braids
i am buried in a patch of earth as forsaken as my stature
i come into being
i get lost
i leave



dream and reality

clean tables were set
when the sun was scorched
bread was a stranger to our country
just as othering ourselves,
we burned and scattered our dreams
and sterilized all hopes
our refugee hearts turned to the loop of night
while the gods bore bastard seeds
in crimson gardens of paradise
we were banned from life, from falling in love
it was the time of laughter in thyme
each of us shouldered, one by one,
uncontainable weary dreams
we fell silent in orphaned solitudes
surrendered ourselves so that the world
would be a better place
in fact, we massacred ourselves
for a worthy life through slimy consolations
history of our consciousness filled with delusions
nothing more than a chain of silenced paradoxes
unanswered questions resided with our stagnation
blaming each sin on the darkness
as they became our biggest unanswered question
was it our dream that was the reality
or our reality, the dream?


Meral Şimşek is a Kurdish poet, novelist and editor. She is a citizen of Turkey under threat in ongoing government trials. Born in 1980 in Diyarbakır, Şimşek became known through her poems, novels and short stories. She works as an editor for magazines and publishing houses, writes lyrics and composes songs. She is a member of Kurdish PEN, of the Kurdish Literary Association (Kürt Edebiyatçılar Derneği) and of the Association of Kurdish writers of Mesopotamia (Mezopotamya Yazarlar Derneği). Şimşek has published three collections of poetry (Mülteci Düşler, Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran, İncir Karası) and one novel (Nar Lekesi). Her writing has been translated into several languages and often awarded prizes: in 2016 in Irak, she received the second prize and in 2017 the first Deniz Fırat poetry prize. In 2017, the third Yaşar Kemal poetry prize, in 2018, Diyarbakır’s best writer/poet in the Altın Toprak prizes, the first prize for her short stories in 2020 by the Federation of Alevy Unions of Germany (AABF). The Comma Press selection in England, 2020. And in 2021, the Hacı Bektaş literary prize awarded by UNESCO-AABF-KSK. In Germany again, the first prize in short stories for Dersim Gemeinde e V. Köln (The Dersim massacre). She has been prosecuted and condemned for her writing which focuses on social realities. See her page at PEN International. She tweets at @simsekmeral21.

Öykü Tekten is a poet, translator, and editor. She is also a founding member of Pinsapo, an art and publishing experience with a particular focus on work in and about translation, as well as a contributing editor and archivist with Lost & Found: The CUNY PoeticsDocument Initiative. Her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets, Words Without Borders, Gulf Coast Magazine, SAND Journal, Jadaliyya, The Markaz Review and Gazete Duvar, among other places. She lives with her two tabby cats in Granada.

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