From where does poetry come?
From the heart’s intelligence
from a hunch about the unknown
or from a rose in the desert?
The personal is not personal
and the universal not universal

I suppose I am I supposed I’m not
The more I listen to my heart the more I’m filled with the words of the unseen
and lifted high to the treetops
I fly aimless from dream to dream
Belonging to a thousand years of poetry
born in the darkness of white linen
I don’t know who amongst us was I
and who the dream
Am I my dream?

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To a Waverer, by Bertolt Brecht

You tell us
It looks bad for our cause.
The darkness gets deeper. The powers get less.
Now, after we worked for so many years
We are in a more difficult position than at the start.
But the enemy stands there, stronger than ever before.
His powers appear to have grown. He has taken on an aspect
of invincibility.
We however have made mistakes; there is no denying it.
Our numbers are dwindling.
Our slogans are in disarray. The enemy has twisted
Part of our words beyond recognition.

What is now false of what we said:
Some or all?
Whom do we still count on? Are we just left over, thrown out
Of the living stream? Shall we remain behind
Understanding no one and understood by none?

Have we got to be lucky?

This you ask. Expect
No other answer than your own.

“Our motivation was our innocence”

Our motivation was our innocence and as a result we were beyond all decision. The sun has set on our day, and it will rise tomorrow for some other children. And as they watch the clouds move across the sky, they’ll think that beauty lasts because it fades and when they ask each other what they’re thinking they’ll say “nothing.” In the eyes of those children, death is alive. They’re innocent, and for this reason alone everything is perfect. “What are you thinking about?” They watch the sun as it sets and the stars animate the sky, but neither of the children wants the day to die. They name constellations, they trace their dreams across the night. “I don’t care about life.” They’re never really wrong and they’re never really right.

Lenin, by Langston Hughes

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Lenin walks around the world.
Frontiers cannot bar him.
Neither barracks nor barricades impede.
Nor does barbed wire scar him.

Lenin walks around the world.
Black, brown, and white receive him.
Language is no barrier.
The strangest tongues believe him.

Lenin walks around the world.
The sun sets like a scar.
Between the darkness and the dawn
There rises a red star.

Sad State of Freedom

You waste the attention of your eyes,
the glittering labour of your hands,
and knead the dough enough for dozens of loaves
of which you’ll taste not a morsel;
you are free to slave for others–
you are free to make the rich richer.

The moment you’re born
they plant around you
mills that grind lies
lies to last you a lifetime.
You keep thinking in your great freedom
a finger on your temple
free to have a free conscience.

Your head bent as if half-cut from the nape,
your arms long, hanging,
you saunter about in your great freedom:
you’re free
with the freedom of being unemployed.

You love your country
as the nearest, most precious thing to you.
But one day, for example,
they may endorse it over to America,
and you, too, with your great freedom–
you have the freedom to become an air-base.

You may proclaim that one must live
not as a tool, a number or a link
but as a human being–
then at once they handcuff your wrists.
You are free to be arrested, imprisoned
and even hanged.

There’s neither an iron, wooden
nor a tulle curtain
in your life;
there’s no need to choose freedom:
you are free.
But this kind of freedom
is a sad affair under the stars.

Translated by Taner Baybars

Nazim Hikmet, a Turkish Marxist poet