The Art of Marxism: poetry

Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison

by Nāzım Hikmet Ran

If instead of being hanged by the neck

  you're thrown inside

  for not giving up hope

in the world, your country, your people,

  if you do ten or fifteen years

  apart from the time you have left,

you won't say,

  "Better I had swung from the end of a rope

          like a flag" -

You'll put your foot down and live.

It may not be a pleasure exactly,

but it's your solemn duty

  to live one more day

      to spite the enemy.

Part of you may live alone inside,

  like a tone at the bottom of a well.

But the other part

must be so caught up

  in the flurry of the world

  that you shiver there inside

when outside, at forty days' distance, a leaf moves.

To wait for letters inside,

to sing sad songs,

or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling

    is sweet but dangerous.

Look at your face from shave to shave,

forget your age,

watch out for lice

  and for spring nights,

and always remember

  to eat every last piece of bread-

also, don't forget to laugh heartily.

And who knows,

the woman you love may stop loving you.

Don't say it's no big thing:

it's like the snapping of a green branch

      to the man inside.

To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,

to think of seas and mountains is good.

Read and write without rest,

and I also advise weaving

and making mirrors.

I mean, it's not that you can't pass

ten or fifteen years inside

      and more -

you can,

  as long as the jewel

  on the left side of your chest doesn't lose it's luster!

      May 1949