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.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments