THE EPIC OF SHEIK BEDREDDIN – NAZIM HIKMET

I was reading a treatise by Mehemmed Serefeddin, Professor of Scripture on the Theology Faculty of the University, entitled “Bedreddin, Son of the Judge of Simavne,” which was printed by the Evkaf-i Islâmiye Press in AH 1341 (AD 1925). I came to the sixty-fifth page of the treatise where Dukas, who served as confidential secretary to the Genoese, was saying:

In those times, in a mountainous country opposite the island of Khios at the head of Iyonyen gulf, called Stilaryum Karaburun, or Stilaryum in the peasant tongue, a vulgar Turkish villager appeared. This villager admonished and counciled the Turks, and recommended that, with the exception of women, things such as food, clothing, livestock and land be considered the common property of all. The confidential secretary to the Genoese who explained with such clarity the admonitions and councils of this vulgar Turk in Stilaryum came before my eyes with his black velvet cloak, his pointed beard and his long, sallow, officious face. His description of Börklüce Mustafa, the greatest disciple of Bedreddin, son of the judge of Simavne, as “vulgar” made me laugh at both meanings of the word. And I suddenly thought of Mehemmed Serefeddin, the author of the treatise. In discussing the goals of Bedreddin in his treatise, he says:

Börklüce, who was advised that food, livestock and land should be the common property of everyone, but excluded women from this, was concealing, I believe, his true feelings out of concern for public opinion; because it is certain that his Sheik, who believed in the unity of Oneness, did not specifically instruct Mustafa to make this exception.

I found this Professor of Scripture to be an exceptionally learned man, one who could divine by means of geomancy the inner thoughts of people who lived centuries ago. And two sentences from Marx and Engels came to mind:

For the bourgeois, his wife is an ordinary means of production. When the bourgeois hears that the means of production are to be communalized, he naturally assumes that women will be communalized, too.

Why would this Professor on the Faculty of Theology not think about Bedreddin’s medieval peasant socialism what the bourgeoisie thinks about the socialism of modern workers? Is not a woman a piece of property from the theological point of view, too?

I closed the treatise. My eyes ached, but I was not sleepy. I looked at the railroad watch hanging on a nail above my head. Approaching two. One cigarette. Another cigarette. I listen to the sounds wandering through the air of the prison ward, an air that is hot, unmoving, heavy and foul, with the heavy smell of stagnant water. The sweating cement and twenty-eight people of the prison ward, excluding me, are asleep. The guards in the towers are blowing their whistles more shrilly, more frequently tonight. Whenever these whistles sound, with their nervous wild insistence, possibly for no reason at all, I feel as though I am on a sinking ship on a dark night.

From the ward above us came the sounds of the chains of the felons sentenced to death. Their cases are in the appeals courts. Since that night that they were condemned to death and taken back to their ward through the rain, they have been walking about, clanging their chains until morning.

How many times I looked up into their windows on those days when we came out into the yard for exercise. Three men. Two of them would sit in the right window, the other in the left. They say that the one who sat apart had been arrested first and had betrayed his friends. The one who smoked the most.

The three of them wrap their arms through and around the prison bars. Although they can see the mountains and the sea very well from where they are, they are watching the yard: us. Watching people.

I never heard a word out of them. They alone, of the entire prison, did not sing folksongs. Not once. And should their chains, which spoke every lonely night, suddenly become quiet in some morning’s darkness, the prison would know that outside, in the most crowded square of the city, three long white shirts with placards on their breasts are swinging.

Oh, for an aspirin! My palms are burning up. Bedreddin and Börklüce Mustafa in my head. If I could push myself a little more, if I did not have that headache which nearly makes my eyes go dark, then, among the clashing swords, the foaming mad horses, the cracking of whips and the cries of women and children of the years long ago, I could see the faces of Bedreddin and Mustafa like two shining words of hope.

The treatise, which I had closed a moment before and left on the cement, caught my eye. Its cover is half-faded by sun, a purplish-brown color like cherries. On the cover, the title of the treatise is written in an elaborate sweeping hand, like an imperial signature. The yellowed pages with their ragged margins are coming out from inside the cover. I am thinking that I have to save my Bedreddin from the flourishing quill, pen-case and blotting powder of this Professor of Theology. In my thoughts, there are lines that I have committed to memory from my readings of Ibni Arab Shah, Asikpasazade, Nesri, Idrisi Bitlisi, Dukas and even Serefeddin:

There is a strong possibility that Bedreddin’s birth should be placed around AH 770.

Sheik Bedreddin, who completed his education in Egypt, stayed there for many years and doubtlessly gained immense stores of knowledge in the area.

Upon his return here from Egypt, he apparently found his parents living in Edirne.

Although his arrival here could have been for the purpose of visiting his father and mother, there also is a good possibility that he came by invitation of Musa Çelebi, who had been made Sultan of the city.

When Sultan Mehemmed Çelebi defeated his brother and was in control of the situation, he deemed it prudent to order Sheik Bedreddin to reside in Iznik.

In the preface to his book Teshil, which the Sheik completed there, he wrote: “Within my breast a fire is burning. And it is mounting with each day to the point that even were my breast of iron, regardless of its strength, it would melt…”

When they banished the Sheik to Iznik, his follower, Börklüce Mustafa, went to Aydin. He moved on from there and reached the Karaburun.

He says: “Just as I will be able to possess your property, so, in like manner, shall you possess mine.” After luring and enticing the common village people to his side with words like these, he strived to establish a friendship with the Christians. Although Sisman, Çelebi Sultan Mehemmed’s governor in Saruhan, took action against this false priest, he was not successful in his attempt to breach the narrow passes of Stilaryum.

The son of the judge of Simavne heard that Börklüce’s position had improved, and he too fled from Iznik. He went to Isfendiyar. He boarded a ship at Isfendiyar and came to Eflak. From there he entered the Sea of Trees (Dobruja).

During the stay in Aydin of the above-mentioned disciple, Mustafa, reports of his sedition, rebellion and heresy reached the ears of Sultan Mehemmed. At once an imperial decree was issued to Prince Sultan Murad, who was the ruler of Rum and Amasya, to the effect that a legion of Anatolian soldiers should be assembled and that they should destroy the heretic Mustafa. And the finest soldiers and equipment in the Aydin region descended on him.

Mustafa, along with nearly ten thousand of his seditious and heretical followers, rose up to meet the Prince.

And a ruthless battle took place.

After the shedding of much blood, the heretical soldiers were vanquished with the help of God.

Those who survived were brought to Ayaslu@. The most terrible tortures were meted out to Börklüce, but even these did not alter his obsession. He was stretched upon a cross which was mounted on the back of a camel. His hands nailed to the wood, arms opposite one another, Mustafa was led through the city in a great procession. The cohorts who had remained faithful to him were killed before his very eyes. With cries of “Help, Grandfather Sultan, help!” they committed their souls to death and accepted the will of God peacefully.

At the end, they had Börklüce cut into pieces, scoured ten provinces, dispatching those who should be dispatched, and granted fiefs to the sons of the wealthy lords. Bayezid Pasa came to Sarohan and found Torlak Kemal there. They hanged him, too.

Meanwhile, Bedreddin’s situation in the Sea of Trees was improving. From all sides great numbers of people had gathered around him. He was not far from having all of the people join him. Because of that, Sultan Mehemmed’s intervention was necessary.

On the suggestion of Bayezid Pasa, a few men entered the ranks of Kadi Bedreddin’s spiritual followers and disciples, and, by means of a ruse, seized him in the forest and bound him up.

They brought him to Sultan Mehemmed in Serez. A scholar who had just arrived from Persia was there. His name was Mavlana Haydar. He stood beside Sultan Mehemmed. Mavlana Haydar advised that, according to Islamic law, it was lawful to kill Bedreddin, but that it was not lawful to confiscate his property.

Then, they carried the son of the Judge of Simavne to the market and hung him in front of a shop. After some days had passed, a few of his accursed followers came and took him from there. He has disciples in that region even today.

My head was about to burst. I looked at the watch. It had stopped. The clanging chains of those above had quieted down a little. Only one of them is walking about. Probably the one who sat apart in the window on the left. Within me, I feel the need to hear an Anatolia folksong. I feel that if those highwaymen were to begin to sing their songs of the plateau from their ward at that moment, my headache would simply disappear.

I burned another cigarette. I reached down. I picked up Mehemmed Serefeddin’s treatise from the cement. A wind came up outside. The sea beneath our window is grumbling, covering up the sounds of the chains and whistles. It would be rocky below our window. How often we longed to look there, where our walls joined the sea. But it is impossible. The iron bars of the windows are too close together. A man’s head can not fit between them. From here we can see only the horizon of the sea.

Tornaci Sefik had the bed next to mine. Sefik turned in his sleep, muttering things to himself. The bridal quilt that his wife had sent him slid off. I covered him up again.

Once more, I turned to the sixty-fifth page of this Professor of Scripture on the Faculty of Theology. I had read only one or two sentences of the confidential secretary to the Genoese when a voice reached my ears through the aches of my head. This voice was saying:

I have slipped quietly over the waves of the sea. I am beside you now.

I turned. There is someone behind the window overlooking the sea. He spoke again:

Have you forgotten what Dukas, confidential secretary to the Genoese, wrote? Do you not recall his mentioning a Cretan monk who lived in a monastery called Turlut on the island of Khios? And I, one of Börklüce Mustafa’s dervishes, have I not come to you over the sea waves wearing a seamless white shirt, with my head and my feet bare, just as I came to that Cretan monk?

It was impossible for anyone to find a foothold outside the window bars, and yet I stood motionless throughout this speech and looked for the one who was speaking. In reality, he was just as he described himself. His seamless shirt was white.

Now, some years later, I am thinking of the Professor of the Faculty of Theology as I write these lines. I do not know whether Serefeddin is dead or still alive. But if he is still alive, and if he reads what I have written, he will say of me:

O, the hypocrite! On one hand, he claims that he is a materialist, and on the other, like the Cretan monk who lived ages ago, he says that he talked with a disciple of Börklüce who silently crossed the seas.

After the Master of Scripture says these words, it is as though I hear the explosion of his celestial laughter.

But it doesn’t matter. Let His Excellency continue to laugh. Let me tell my adventure.

My headache suddenly vanished. I got off the bed. I walked toward the man in the window. He took me by the hand. We left the sleeping ward, with its other twenty-eight people and its sweating cement. Suddenly, I found myself upon those rocks which we could not see at all, there where our walls met the sea. I went side by side with this disciple of Börklüce Mustafa beyond the years, passing silently over the dark sea waves, back centuries to the age of Giyaseddin Ebulfeth Mehemmed bin Ibni Yezidülkirisçi or, more simply, Çelebi Sultan Mehemmed.

And this journey is the adventure I wish to tell you now. I will try to set down what I saw on this journey, piece by piece, the sounds, colors, actions, shapes and scenes, and sometimes—out of an old habit—in a mixture of long and short sentences, with a rhyme here and there. And so there was a

1

Sofa in Bursa silk,

pattern of red and green branches;

wall in Kütahya tiles,

flowering like a blue garden;

wine in silver decanters;

lambs roasted beyond all praise,

heaped upon copper platters;

Çelebi Sultan Mehemmed

strangled his brother, Musa,

with the string of a bow;

abluted his hands with his brother’s blood

poured in a golden bowl.

Çelebi Sultan ascended the throne,

Çelebi was sovereign, but—

in the country of Al Osman

a wind was blowing

a desolate whine

a folksong of death.

In the fiefs watered with the peasants’ sweat

and harvested by the peasants’ backs,

pitchers lay empty and cracked

by the village wells

where soldiers stood smoothing their mustaches.

The traveler along these roads

heard the lament

of men without land

of land without men.

In the marketplaces at the end of these roads,

before the castle’s gate

where swords clashed and foaming horses neighed,

tradesmen learned the crafts of despair

at the hands of their own masters.

In short,

there was a sovereign,

a fief, a wind

and a wailing.

2

This lake is Iznik lake.

Calm,

Dark,

Deep.

Like the water of a mountain well.

Our lake is misty.

Its fish have flesh without juices.

Its marshes are flush with fevers.

And before the beard of a man of our lake turns white

He dies.

This lake is Iznik lake.

This town is Iznik town.

The blacksmith’s anvil is a broken heart in Iznik town.

Its children are hungry.

Its women have breasts like dried fish.

And folksongs never pass the lips of its young men.

This town is Iznik town.

This house is an artisan’s house.

In this house

There is an old man named Bedreddin.

He is not tall.

His beard is white.

His childlike eyes are slanted and sly.

His yellow fingers are like reeds.

Bedreddin

Sits upon a white sheep skin,

Writing his Teshil,

With the flourish of a Persian style.

They

face him,

sitting on their knees.

They

face him,

staring as though at a mountain.

He,

head shaven,

eyebrows thick,

the tall thin Börklüce Mustafa is staring.

He,

eagle-beaked

Torlak Kemal is staring.

Without boredom, without tiring,

Without their fill of staring,

They stare at Bedreddin in his Iznik exile.

3

A barefoot woman weeps on the shore.

An empty fishing boat, its mooring rope cut,

Floats on the lake like the corpse of a bird.

It drifts where the water takes it,

It drifts toward the cliffs across the lake,

Where it will be broken into pieces.

Evening on Iznik lake.

The cavalry of the mountain peaks

Beheads the sun

And sends its blood flowing into the lake.

A barefoot woman weeps on the shore,

Her fisherman chained up in the castle

For the lack of a carp.

Evening on Iznik lake.

Bedreddin bent down,

Scooped the water into his hands

And straightened up.

As water sieved through his fingers,

Returning to the lake,

Bedreddin spoke to himself:

“That fire in my breast has ignited

And is mounting with each day.

Even were my heart forged of iron,

It could not endure this fire. It would melt!

The time for me to emerge and burst forth has come!

The time for we men of the land to rise up

And conquer the land has come!

And we shall see confirmed

The strength of knowledge, the secret of Oneness!

And we shall see canceled

The laws of all nations and religious sects!”

The next day,

The boat breaks up on the lake,

A head falls in the castle,

A woman weeps on the shore.

And as the man from Simavne

Wrote his Teshil,

Mustafa and Torlak Kemal

Kissed the hand of their Sheik,

Tightened the straps on their chestnut bays

And rode out from the gates of Iznik,

With sheatheless swords at their hips

And a manuscript in their saddlebags.

The name of the book was

Varidat.

4

After Börklüce Mustafa and Torlak Kemal had kissed the hand of Bedreddin, mounted their horses and ridden off, one to Aydin, the other to Sarohan, I, too, left on the road to Konya with my guide. And one day, when we had reached the plains of Haymana,

We heard that Mustafa had taken a stand,

That in the Karaburun in Aydin,

In the presence of villagers,

He had spoken the words of Bedreddin.

We heard that “the masters

Were put to the sword,

That the lands and fiefs

Of the sovereign’s lords

Were portioned out to all,

And landowners one and all were put to the sword,

So that the body of the earth

Might be retrieved from all its sorrows

And purified like the body of a young boy.

We heard…

But how could we remain there

After hearing such things?

Early one morning,

As we ate olives beneath a wispy willow tree,

As a solitary bird sang on the plain of Haymana,

We said: “Let us push on!

Let us see for ourselves!” we said.

“Let us grip

the reins

of a plow

And work that brotherly land for a while!”

We passed

mountain after mountain.

We crossed

mountain over mountain.

Friends,

I do not travel alone!

At mid-day,

I said to my dear companion:

“We have arrived.”

I said: “Look!

Just a step behind us the earth is weeping,

But here before us it begins to laugh like a child.

Look! The figs are huge emeralds.

The vines are drooping

With clusters of amber grapes.

See! The fish are leaping in the nets,

Their skins glisten and sparkle like scales of sun,

Their flesh is soft and white like young lamb.”

I said: “Look!

Here, men are fruitful like the earth, the sun, the sea.

Here, sea, sun and earth are productive like the men.”

5

When we had left behind us the fiefs and bonded lands of the sovereign and his lords, the first people we encountered upon entering the country of Börklüce were three young men. They all wore white garments cut from a single cloth, like that of my guide beside me. One of them had a curly beard black as ebony, passionate eyes of the same color, and a great vaulted nose. In the past, he had been an adherent of the religion of Moses. Now, he was one of Börklüce’s disciples.

The chin of the second man was cuffed and his nose was perfectly straight. He was a Greek sailor from Khios. He, too, was one of Börklüce’s followers.

The third man was about medium in height and had broad shoulders. It occurs to me now that I had likened him to Hüseyin, the one who lies in the ward of those highwaymen who sing the folksongs of the high plains. Only, Hüseyin is from Erzurum. This one was from Aydin.

It was the man from Aydin who spoke first:

“Are you friends or enemies? If you’re friends, we welcome you. If you’re enemies, your necks are thinner than a hair.”

“We’re friends,” we said.

And then we learned that the army of Sisman, governor of Sarohan, made up of all those who would see the lands returned to the sovereign and his lords, was being cut down by our men in the narrow passes of the Karaburun mountains.

Again, the man who looked like the Hüseyin who lies in the ward of the highwaymen, spoke:

“If this year our communal dining tables reach from here to the sea at the tip of the Karaburun, and if the figs are so bursting with honey, the spikes of wheat so heavy with grain and the olives so stuffed with oil, it is because we have watered the earth with the blood of the pillagers who wear jackets stitched in red.”

The good news was plentiful. My guide said:

“Since it is thus, let us return at once and carry the news to Bedreddin.”

Accompanied by Anastas, the Greek sailor from Khios, we left the brotherly land whose threshold we had only stepped upon, and plunged again into the darkness of the lands of the sons of Al Osman.

We found Bedreddin in Iznik on the shore of the lake. It was morning. The air was wet and sad.

Bedreddin said:

“Our turn has come. We shall pass over to Rumelia.”

That night we left Iznik. Cavalry pressed at our heels. The darkness was like a wall thrown up between us and them, behind which we could hear the pounding of hooves. My guide went first, then Bedreddin’s horse between my chestnut bay and the horse of Anastas. We were three mothers. Bedreddin was our child. We trembled inside, fearing the evil they would do to him. We were three children. Bedreddin was our father. We pressed closer to him whenever the sound of the iron hooves behind the wall of darkness drew nearer.

By concealing ourselves in daylight and taking to the roads at night, we reached Isfendiyar. From there we boarded a ship.

6

One night there was a sailing ship

and desolate stars on the sea.

One night there was a sailing ship

alone with the stars on the sea.

The stars were countless.

The sails were slack.

The water was dark

and flat as far as the eye could see.

The blond Anastas and the islander Bekir

plied the oars.

The sturdy Salih and I

sat in the bow.

And Bedreddin,

fingers sunk in his beard,

listened to the oars’ shearing.

“Ho, Bedreddin!” I said,

“Above these dozing sails

there is nothing to see but stars.

Not even whispers stir in this air.

And below, in the belly of the sea,

there is no grumbling.

This silent dark water

does nothing but sleep.”

That small old man,

whose beard was bigger than his body,

laughed and said:

“Never mind this stillness in the air.

This sea that you think is sleeping

is waking up.”

One night there was a sailing ship

and desolate stars on the sea.

One night there passed a sailing ship

over the Karadeniz

to the Mad Forest, to the Sea of Trees.

7

To this forest that is a Mad Forest

we have come to stay.

In this forest that is a Sea of Trees

we have pitched our tent.

We have sent hawks flying

from branch to village

With a message crying:

“You know why we have come!

You know the grief of our hearts!”

Behind each hawk a hundred lions came.

Villagers set fire to their lords’ crops,

Apprentices burned their masters’ shops,

Slaves burst out of their chains, and came.

All who were with us in Rumelia came

and flowed arm in arm into the Sea of Trees.

Like a red Apocalypse!

All at once, there mingled together

horse, human, spear, iron, leaf, skin,

the branches of beech trees, the roots of oaks.

Since this Mad Forest went mad,

Never had it seen such throngs,

Never had it heard such rumblings!

8

Leaving Anastas encamped with Bedreddin in the Mad Forest, my guide and I went down into Gallipoli. Long ago, someone had swum across that sea—it may have been for the sake of a lover. But as we swam to the opposite shore, what moved us as quickly as fish was not our passion to see the face of a woman in the moonlight. This journey to the Karaburun by the Izmir road was to bring our Sheik’s news to Mustafa.

When we had reached a caravansaray near Izmir, we heard that Bayezid Pasa, with the hand of the Sultan’s twelve-year old son in his, had mobilized his Anatolian army.

We did not linger in Izmir. Leaving the city, we held to the Aydin road on which we encountered four gentlemen who had tied a melon to a rope and dropped it down a well to cool it. They were resting and talking beneath a walnut tree. Each one wore different clothing. Three wore quilted turbans, the fourth a fez. They greeted us. We greeted them. One of the turbaned gentlemen, Nesri it was, said:

“Sultan Mehemmed has dispatched Bayezid Pasa to deal with this Börklüce who is leading our people into a heathen faith that permits every sort of sin.”

The second turbaned gentleman, who was Sekerullah bin Sehabeddin, said:

“Many people have gathered about this mystic, but it is clear that their deeds are opposed to the very Laws of Muhammed.”

The third of the turbaned gentlemen, one Asikpasazade, said:

“Question: If Börklüce were to be killed in the end, would he go to the other world as a believer or as a non-believer? Answer: Only God knows what will happen to him when he dies.”

The gentleman with the fez was a learned Professor of Scripture on the Faculty of Theology. He looked at our faces. He wrinkled his eyes and appeared to smile with a profound shrewdness. He said nothing.

We spurred on our horses at once. In the dust of our hooves, we left behind those who had dropped the melon in the well to cool it and were chatting beneath a walnut tree, and we reached the Karaburun and the side of Börklüce.

9

It was hot,

Hot!

The heat was a blunt steel knife

With a bloody handle.

It was hot.

The clouds were full.

The clouds would soon be emptying.

He watched, motionless,

from the rocks.

His eyes went down to the plains

like two eagles.

There, the softest, the hardest,

the most sparing, the most generous,

the most

loving,

the greatest, the most beautiful of women,

EARTH,

would soon be giving birth.

It was hot.

He watched from the Karaburun mountains.

He watched the horizon at the end of the land

With his brows knit together.

Filling that horizon, a fire with five plumes was coming.

Who came

was Prince Murad.

An imperial edict issued to Prince Murad

Commanded that he go to the country of Aydin

and descend on the heretic Mustafa,

caliph of Bedreddin.

It was hot.

The heretic Mustafa, caliph of Bedreddin, watched,

the villager Mustafa watched.

He watched

without fear,

without anger

without laughter.

He watched

eyes fixed

straight ahead.

He watched Her.

The softest, the hardest,

the most sparing, the most generous,

the most

loving,

the greatest, the most beautiful of women,

EARTH,

would soon be giving birth.

He watched.

The braves of Bedreddin watched the horizon from the rocks.

The end of this land was steadily approaching

On the wings of a decreed bird of death.

And they, who watched from the rocks,

Had unveiled this earth,

With its grapes, figs and pomegranates,

And its goats with fur yellow as honey

And milk thick as honey,

And its slim-waisted, lion-maned horses,

Like a communal dining table

Without walls or boundaries.

It was hot.

He watched.

The braves of Bedreddin watched the horizon.

The softest, the hardest,

the most sparing, the most generous,

the most

loving,

the greatest, the most beautiful of women,

EARTH,

would soon be giving birth.

It was hot,

The clouds were full.

Soon, the first drop would fall

like a sweet word

to earth.

Sudden-

ly,

pouring from the rocks,

raining from the sky,

springing from the ground.

Like earth’s final creation,

Bedreddin’s braves came out against the Prince’s army,

Their feet bare, their white shirts without seams,

Their heads bare, their swords without sheathes.

And a ruthless battle took place.

Turkish villagers from Aydin,

Greek sailors from Khios,

And Jewish artisans,

Ten thousand heretical comrades of Börklüce Mustafa,

Swung into the forest of the enemy

Like ten thousand axes.

Their ranks with flags, vermilion and green,

With shields embossed, and helmets bronze,

Broke into pieces, but—

When the day went down into evening

In a bursting rain

Of the ten thousand two thousand remained.

So that all could sing with a single voice,

So that all could pull together the nets from the waters,

So that all could work together like a fine iron tool,

So that all could plow together the earth,

So that all could eat together the honeyed figs,

So that all could share together

everywhere

everything

except the cheeks of their beloved ones,

Ten thousand gave eight thousand.

They were beaten.

Those who won

Wiped the blood from their swords

On the seamless white shirts

Of those who lost.

And the earth that had been turned

By brotherly hands all working together,

Like a folksong that had been sung

By voices all singing together,

Was churned up by the hooves

Of horses bred at the Edirne Palace.

Do not say that this was the logical result

Of historical, social and economic conditions.

I know.

My head bows before the truth of what you say,

But this heart,

It does not understand much of this language.

It says, Woe! what a horrible fate!

Woe! damn the world!

And one by one,

Quickly,

Marks of the whip striping their shoulders,

Blood in their faces,

They pass—with their bare feet pressing into my heart.

They pass

Through the villages of Aydin, through the Karaburun,

The defeated.

10

They stopped at dark.

It was he who spoke:

“They have pitched a market in Ayaslug.

But whom, my friends,

But whom have they beheaded?”

It was raining

As though it would always rain.

They began to speak:

“The market is not yet pitched, but it will be pitched.

The wind is not yet still, but it will be still.

His head is not yet severed, but it will be severed.”

Curtain after curtain of darkness was soaked

When I appeared before them.

I began to speak:

“Where is the gate of Ayaslug?

Show it and I shall enter!

Has the city a fortress?

Speak and I shall destroy it!

Is there a toll to pay?

Say this and I shall not pay it!”

It was he who spoke:

“The gate of Ayaslug is narrow

And cannot be entered.

The city has a fortress

That cannot easily be destroyed.

O, brave, with your chestnut bay, be gone!

And tend to affairs of your own!”

“But I shall enter and get through!” I said.

“But I shall burn it to the ground!” I said.

He spoke:

“The rain has stopped.

The sun is rising.

Ali, the executioner,

Is calling for Mustafa!

O, brave, with your chestnut bay, be gone!

And tend to affairs of your own!”

I said: “Friends,

let me be,

let me be!

Friends,

let me see him,

let me see him!

Do not think

that I will not endure!

Do not think

that I cannot burn

without showing everybody that I burn!

Friends,

do not say

‘Impossible!’

Do not waste your breath saying

‘Impossible!’

This head is no pear that will break by its stem.

Even wounded, it is no pear that will fall from the branch.

This heart,

This heart is not anything like a sparrow,

It is nothing like a sparrow.

Friends,

I know!

Friends,

I know where he is

And what has happened to him!

I know

He is gone and will come no more!

I know

His naked body

Is nailed by the arms to a bloody cross

Mounted on the back of a camel.

Friends,

let me be,

let me be!

Friends,

let me go, let me see him!

Let me see

This man of Bedreddin,

This man, Mustafa,

This Börklüce Mustafa!”

Two thousand men for beheading.

Mustafa upon his cross.

Executioner, stump, ax.

Everything is here.

Everything is ready.

Upon a gray horse

With gold stirrups

And a saddlecloth worked with red threads,

Sits Prince Sultan Murad of Amasya—

A child with thick eyebrows.

And beside him—

Bayezid Pasa!

If only I could shit upon one—

I don’t care which—

Of his imperial plumes!

The executioner swung his ax.

Bare necks split open like pomegranates.

Heads dropped, one after the other,

Like apples from a green stem.

And each head that fell,

Seen by Mustafa for the last time,

Fell without a sign of despair,

Fell with a single cry:

“Help, my Grandfather Sultan, help!”

And no other word.

11

Bayezid Pasa came to Sarohan, found Torlak Kemal and there hanged him, too. He scoured ten provinces, and those who should be killed were killed, and the ten provinces once more were issued as fiefs to the servants of his lord. With my guide, I passed through these ten provinces. The vultures drifted above the hills, and from time to time, with desolate shrieks, they soared above the dark streams and swooped down upon the corpses of tender women and children whose blood had not yet dried. Although the bodies of young and old men stretched out along the road in great numbers beneath the sun, so satiated were the stomachs of these birds that they cared only for the flesh of women and children.

On the roads, we encountered the regiments of the sovereign’s lords.

Through winds that moved heavily and with great difficulty, like the air of an orchard in decay, they passed us as we left behind the ten provinces. And behind them came the servants of the sovereign’s lords, streaming back to settle the fiefs again, returning to the ravaged earth with great fanfare, colorful plumes and joyful drumming. Gallipoli came into view across the sea. I said to my guide:

“My strength is gone. I cannot swim this sea.”

We found a boat.

The sea was rough. I looked at the boatman. He resembled a photograph that I had torn from the inside cover of a German book and hung above my bed in the prison ward. His mustache was thick and black as ebony, his beard was broad and pure white. Never in my life had I seen a forehead so open, nor one that said so much.

We reached the middle of the straits. The sea flowed on and on. As the foaming waters slipped by beneath our boat, under the lead-colored sky, the boatman who looked like the man in the photograph above my bed spoke:

“Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, and carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight…”

12

When we set foot in Rumelia, we heard that Çelebi Sultan Mehemmed had lifted the siege of Selonika Castle and had come to Serez. From that moment, we began taking to the road both night and day in order to reach the Mad Forest.

One night, as we were relaxing by the edge of the road, three horsemen came from the direction of the Mad Forest and passed us at a full gallop, heading for the city of Serez. Behind the saddle of one of those horsemen, I saw an indistinct shape resembling a man, tied up like a saddle bag. The hair rose on my arms and I said to my guide:

I recognize these hoofbeats

That charge along the roads at night,

These frothing bloody coal-black horses

That carry captives behind their saddles.

I recognize these hoofbeats.

One morning,

They

Came to our tents, friendly as a folksong.

We shared our bread with them.

The air was so beautiful,

Our hearts so full of hope,

Our eyes like those of children,

While DISTRUST,

our wise friend,

slept…

I recognize these hoofbeats.

One night,

They

Galloped away from our tents,

Leaving our sentry with a knife in his back,

And they

Had the arms of our most prized one

Tied up behind their saddle.

I recognize these hoofbeats.

The Mad Forest knows them, too.

In fact, it was not long before we learned that the Mad Forest indeed had come to know these hoofbeats. As soon as we stepped into the edge of the forest, we heard that Bayezid Pasa had considered everything carefully first and then sent some men into the forest. Passing themselves off as disciples of Bedreddin, these men had wormed their way into his tent and, that very night, had overwhelmed the sleeping Bedreddin and smuggled him away. We knew then that the three horsemen we had seen from the edge of the road were the fathers of all provocateurs in Ottoman history, and that the captive they carried tied behind the saddle was Bedreddin.

13

Rumelia.

Serez.

And an old phrase:

“IN HIS IMPERIAL PRESENCE.”

In the center,

Our old man,

Straight as a sword stuck in the ground.

Opposite,

The sovereign.

They studied each other.

The sovereign desired that,

Before killing this personification of heresy,

Before consigning the last word to the rope,

The Law of Islam

Might just this once

Apply itself with skill,

So that the affair could be closed

Acceptably.

The assembly was ready.

A man of great learning,

Newly arrived from Persia,

One called Mevlana Haydar,

Sank his hennaed beard upon his chest

Seeking divine inspiration,

And concluded the matter thus:

“Legally, his property may not be taken,

But it is legal to take his blood.”

They turned to Bedreddin.

“It is your turn to speak,” he was told.

“Explain your heresy,” he was told.

Bedreddin

Looked through the arcade.

Outside, there was sun.

In the courtyard, the branches

Were sprouting and green,

Stones were being carved

By flowing water.

Bedreddin smiled.

His eyes lit up inside,

And he said:

“Since it is we who were defeated this time,

Anything I could do or say would be empty.

Do not prolong your speech.

Since the decree is for me,

Give it to me so that I may impress my seal on it.”

14

Rain drizzling

Like a treasonous speech

In a low voice

Of fear.

Rain drizzling

Like the pale naked feet of an outcast

Running upon the wet dark earth.

Rain drizzling,

While opposite a coppersmith’s shop

In the market of Serez—

My Bedreddin hangs from a tree.

Rain drizzling

At a late starless hour of the night,

While, slick with rain,

My Sheik’s naked body dangles from a dead limb.

Rain drizzling.

The market of Serez is mute,

The market of Serez is blind.

A curse in the air for the grief of silence and blindness

And the market of Serez with its face covered with its hands.

Rain drizzling.

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