IntroductionI wrote my first poem at the age of thirteen, a few months after my family and I moved back to Turkiye from our six year stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was about seven years old when we went, and not remembering much from the time before, I grew up to love a land which I called my own.
It was June, 1989, when I was forced to leave my home, and travel half-way round the world to a land I knew nothing about. Well, actually I knew some things about it -- but none of them were very nice. I had, for example, been briefed continuously before we set out not to talk back to the teachers in my new school. How they had nasty reputations for being quick-tempered and how I should conform to everything they said and ask no questions. I could barely write in what I later learned was my mother-tongue, Turkish, and the hybrid language I spoke consisted of varying amounts of English and Turkish garbled together in such a way that only a bilingual could safely claim to understand even the simplest things I muttered.
My worst fears were confirmed when we first touched down at Istanbul airport; there was what I could only describe as organized havoc everywhere. I remember being led through two lanes of speeding cars over to the pavement facing the arrivals where we speedily entered a taxi. I never thought I'd survive the ride -- the maniac driving was a creature sent from hell to claim my 13-year-old hide. I remember grabbing the safety bar above my door with both hands and praying to God with all my heart. The fact that I didn't know any good prayers made it worse, I kept repeating the same few lines of Arabic I knew, and hoped that they counted. As we got further away from the airport, the city began to come into view. I asked my mom, quite seriously -- expecting an intelligent reply -- whether somebody had just dropped a bomb on it. It looked like a huge ruin; there was dust and weathered buildings and more dust -- no trees, no greenery. My God, where had we come to? (Could this be hell?)
We stayed in Istanbul for a few days with my grandmother before moving on to Izmir. Apparently we were allowed one inter-country flight for free for having flown on an international flight and I guess my dad didn't want to waste it. I later came to understand that Istanbul was not hell -- albeit close -- Izmir was. I thought I had gotten semi-used to the traffic (so everyone here was crazy and so they all canceled themselves out and nobody got into an accident -- just the law of the land, eh?) when, on our way to who-knows-where from the airport I saw a car smash into a truck which was waiting at a roundabout. I was sure the guy in the car had seen the truck -- he had to have -- it was a truck for God's sake -- a real life, towering truck! He just came, knowingly, and smashed into it. Now I knew I was in la-la land. Somehow, I had been transported out of my ideal little world and placed in the middle of a fuckin' loony house. A few days later, I nearly got run-over when I tried to cross at a pedestrian-crossing. It was a three lane, one way road and there I was, clueless, following the stripes, headed for the other side. I don't know how my dad grabbed my T-shirt and yanked me back in time -- all I saw was a speeding god-damn Turkish car (I think it was gray) swerve out of the way and, honks blaring, race on by. "But dad, it was a zebra-crossing ... I ..."
Finally, we came to Ankara, the 'glorious' capital of la-la land. I understood that this was where we would be living from now on. Great! Why don't you just chop me up and feed me to the sharks ... well, whatever, it was better than Izmir, at least.
I don't remember a lot about the year or two that followed -- I guess I don't want to remember. They were so horrific that I believe I've locked the memories away in an unconscious effort to protect myself. All I know is that in a few short months after I started school, the Turkish education system, which thrives on killing individuality and creativeness and prides itself in stamping out hundreds of characterless 'block-people' with identical thoughts, beliefs and actions every year into a country filled to the brim with conformists, succeeded in killing any self-confidence I might have had.
In a way, the poems, stories, lyrics and various writings in here tell my story. It begins when I was forced to leave the home I loved so much, and continues with the blows I suffered in my first years in Turkiye, and concludes with my struggle to get back to my roots -- as a person -- and with my final victory over the forces.
I've learned a lot during the past six years, but the most important lesson I learned was to be myself. Screw society. Fuck it! Don't let people tell you how to act, be, or think. Don't let disapproving eyes get you down, you've also got a set, so use them -- get them with a glance harder, meaner and longer until they turn away. Be yourself. You owe it to yourself to be yourself. Take chances, and live. Use your head and listen to your heart ... and never let go of your dreams -- If you want something bad enough, and work hard enough, it's impossible not to get it. Hey, six years wasn't that bad -- I guess I lot of people go through life without ever learning those lessons. By the way, here's a motto I've adopted, you've probably heard it before -- you only come round once (enjoy it!)
August 4, 1995