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(To all the women whose bodies were invaded and who were cut off from life.)

“An arrow can only be shot by drawing back. When life becomes nothing but heaviness and difficulties, this means it will soon propel you into something grand. Keep on aiming!”

Paulo Coelho

My hands and feet can’t move. This taste of plastic in my mouth makes me nauseous. As if skyscrapers had been built on my eyelids, I can’t open my eyes. Evanescent green shadows move around me. My eyes open at last, and what I see is terrifying. I am covered in blood ! I grow restless…

“Leave me alone! Help? No one? Save me! Don’t touch me, take your dirty hands off me, don’t touch me!”

Why does no one hear me? Sounds I can’t grasp ring in my ears, sounds I can’t locate. My eyes close again.

“This is impossible, doctor, the patient woke up!”

“Where am I? Help!”

“She’s going into shock, her heart will stop! A new dose of anaesthetics, immediately.”

“Doctor, there’s also an intoxication, doctor, a drug interaction, she is poisoning herself!”

“Help! Why does no one hear me? Where is everybody? What are you doing to me?”

“I said a new dose of anaesthetics!”

“We’re starting it, doctor.”

“All right, let’s move on to pumping the stomach. Careful, the abdomen is open.”

My eyes are closed, they won’t open, my eyes. The taste of plastic in my mouth becomes a heavy scent in my nostrils. What is this pain moving down from my nose to my throat? Mamma, where are you? Save me, I’m in great pain!  Ah, my lungs are tearing my rib cage! For all I know, I’m taking my last breath…

A gentle voice filters through to my ears.

“Please wake up now!”

I’m thirsty. As if not a single drop of water had touched my lips for millions of years.

“Where am I? Please, a sip of water!”

Around me, rays of light move about. It’s very cold. I’m cold. My teeth chatter, as if at the epicentre of an earthquake. I must get up. God, below my neck, my body is beyond my control. Why am I naked? No, no not again. Please, I have no strength left, not again!

“Where am I? Let me go, I have children, I am a mother. Not again, not this time!”

Me, I have children. What were their names? When did I become a mother? I’m cold. This freezing sensation is very familiar. No, impossible. I had left that cell? Yes I had left it. No, that’s not possible, where am I?

“Doctor, the patient is not waking up.”

“Shock her! Something’s wrong, she should already be awake.”

God! What is this pain on my face?

As if I was lacerated all over. The desire to open my eyes is the strongest. I feel a hand in my left one. Is my left hand still shackled? My eyes don’t open, a breath comes close to my face.

“Don’t be afraid, you are in the hospital, I am a doctor. Most of all, don’t be afraid, it’s over. No one hurt you. You’ve just come out of an operation. Come on, calm down please.”

My eyes flutter open. A brown familiar face in front of me. Where do I know it from?

“I’m cold.”

“It will be over soon. Don’t go back to sleep whatever you do. Look,  I’m covering you, you won’t be cold anymore.”

“But I’m covered with blood all over! The smell of blood, the cells, I’m nauseous, I’m going to vomit.”

This nausea, this urge to vomit… Oh, I’m in such pain!

“No, please, open your eyes. You are not in a cell. Look, I’m holding your hand.”

My eyes open again, the eyes in the brown face are wet. The eyes are like those from Dicle

“Who are. You? Get me out of here. Where are my brother and my sister? We came here, all three of us. Please, cover me, I am naked!”

“Look at my face, I am a doctor. Look at my face, do you remember? Come on, look at my face, that of an Amed native! There, I’m covering you, but don’t move. You’re going to stay quiet, agreed?”

“Please cover me.”

I hear a vague rustling. A green shadow covers my body.

“Come on my friends, we’re taking the patient upstairs. Don’t shake her, so she won’t get restless.”

The nausea is even worse when the gurney moves. I’m very sleepy.  Don’t uncover my body. When he sees it, my brother is in pain.   Don’t hurt my brother; I would so like to sleep…

We had a bit of hope left
Birds searching for crumbs ate it
Look, my hands are empty now 1
It must have been sung for us.
So, time to prepare for these journeys
Stretching all along the cliffs…

Some days should be torn out of calendars, or they should self-destruct. Especially those days we try to forget, with the shame of having lived them, when we weren’t  ready for them, they should erase themselves…

*

I started feeling the pain from the kicks landing on my body when they took away my older sister. To hell with pain! What will they do to my sister? They arrested all three of us at the same time. Our mother must have lost her mind! Here, everything is dark. I hear cries. All from very young voices. How old are they, the owners of these voices? Of how many millions of years can human cries age my thirteen years? The sound of boots moves closer, are they bringing back my sister?

“Walk, you son of a whore. We’ll see if you’re still a man when we’ll fuck your sister in front of you!”

“Bastards!”

That voice? My older brother?

God, make time stop. They say you can do everything?  Make all this evil disappear. Is your power meant to make us suffer? Come, make time stop!

The door of the cell opened, my brother was struggling in the hands of the barbarians. When the feeble light from the outside dirtied the room, our eyes met mine and my brother’s. In his, anger, in his eyes, distress and powerlessness…My brother hollered, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Two people approached me, their disgusting hands wandered on my neck, I wanted to vomit, I lowered my head as much as I could. The more I lowered it, the more the other hand pulled back on my hair. They wanted me to stay eye to eye with my brother. I squeezed my eyes shut so much they should have imploded. They forced them open. Their sickening fits of laughter resonated in my ears. I’m nauseous, I’m thirteen years old, I’m afraid!

“What do you say, huh? You are men, you  asshole? You will found a country? Watch how we run over your sister, imagine how we’ll pass over your country!”

A pair of hands hold my brother’s head, forcing his neck toward me, my brother cannot move.

“Go on honey, undress so we can see what you look like.”

There’s fear in my eyes, I can’t help it. And how am I supposed to undress in front of my brother. He’s never even seen my legs. We don’t undress like that, in front of our brothers. They never see us when we undress, or dress.

“No, no, I can’t undress! Please, don’t do this, my brother, please!”

“You slut, I told you to undress! Don’t worry no stranger will see you.”

My brother struggling, his cries… Someone must stop time, someone must annihilate time…

I’m ashamed, my brother is in front of me. My brother has never even seen my legs. I’m trembling. My tears wrap my barely perceptible breasts. God, why are there no clothes woven from tears?

A hand is extended toward my skin.

“Don’t touch, swine, don’t touch!”

“Brother, help me.”

My voice is weak, my tears smother my voice.

“Go on brother, give her a hand!”

“Don’t be afraid, little sister, please don’t be afraid! Look, I don’t see you. Don’t be ashamed, lift your head!”

I can’t lift my head. The pain in my brother’s eyes is unbearable.

“Lift your head!”

“Brother!”

The barbarian holding me from behind with my hands joined, pushes me to the ground on my knees. How can I stand this pain? The disgusting hand stops moving on my skin touched by the coldness of a truncheon. The jolts in my body, in what corners of the universe are they creating earthquakes at this very moment? God, someone must help us!

The coldness of the truncheon on my crotch, a hand covers my mouth, my scream can explode my own eardrums. My mouth is squeezed so tight, I can die. My brother’s cries in my ears.

“Stop struggling, look, your sister likes it! The bitch isn’t saying a thing.”

Can death be willed? Come on, I want to die, now, right away. My head is swimming, I don’t care about the pain in my body. My brother!

Can you faint from shame? I faint.

It mustn’t have lasted long. When I opened my eyes, everything was the same, only my brother was missing.

“Get up, girlie, get dressed. If you have no balls,  you will become men. If you don’t become men, we’ll break you in.”

“Where’s my brother?”

“It’s his turn to get a taste of the truncheon. It won’t just touch him gently like we did with you.”

I can’t manage to get up. Someone pushes my clothes toward me with his feet. My hands don’t work anymore, how can I get dressed?

“Come on, move it! We’ve seen enough of your ass and everything. What a wimp you are! Not like your sister, she made us sweat. Just look at you!”

I’m nauseous. I vomit. God, of what sin are we paying the fine?

“Hey, besides, you little slut, if you say one word about what happened here to anyone, think about your sister and your brother. You don’t talk, ever! One word to anybody, I’ll do worse, you hear?”

A horrible pain stretches from my crotch to my anus, then to my hips and kidneys. My knees let go. My stomach, as if it were splitting I want to go the toilet. I feel as if my whole body is going to expel my guts.

Where I’m taken after the cell is beyond disgusting as a toilet. I want to wash my hands, my face, but the liquid they’ve left as water smells of piss. The door is open, I can’t relieve myself. One of the barbarians is right in front of me. I wait.

“Why did you bring us here? You didn’t wash your face, you didn’t relieve yourself. We’re your father’s servants?”  He says, pulling me by the arm.

“Everything I told you before, keep it in mind! If you mention it to a single person, you know what I’ll do! “

I’m afraid, I nod. And how could I talk about it ? I want to die…

Henceforth
The opening to the dreams has dried up
Have we reached the end
Or infinity
Who knows, maybe
There were only enough river deposits to make it to the present
Who knows…

*

Where have we arrived? What are these machines? Why can’t I move? Cables run over my body. Electricity? No, please, not now, my stomach hurts. What did they put on my eyes? They’re all sticky. This smell of blood , I want to wash myself. Ah, I can’t move!

My eyes half open at last. What is this pain? For how many centuries have I been here? The smell of blood is gone, everything is clean everywhere. Here is not a cell, where am I? I study everything through half-opened eyes. Here is a hospital, I remember, I was going to be operated. I’ve been operated a number of times already. Why am I in such pain? My back is numb, I have to turn over but I can’t move.

“Madam, whatever you do, don’t move!” says an approaching voice.

I remember this face. It is that of the young nurse who installed the last drip before the surgery. A bit shy, I think she is new in the job. Yes, yes, it’s her!

“I’m very thirsty.”

“No water, not yet. Your doctor will be here soon. Please, don’t move. If you move, I will have to tie your hands. You had a difficult surgery, your stitches could get undone.”

My tongue is glued to my palate, the inside of my mouth is like a desert, my strangled voice bothers me. A terrible pain in my throat, with each breath, the smell of blood fills me.

“Are my children here?”

Yes, my children, my sacred ones who made me experience motherhood.

“Yes, they are in the waiting room. First your doctors must come, then I’ll have them enter.”

I look around at the room. I am on a bed, near the wall. The one near the window is empty. Yet, it was occupied when I left for the surgery. The patient that occupied it must have gone to surgery after me. The bright light bothers me. The sound of my pulse resonating from the machines to which I’m linked up explodes on my eardrums. The window is right in front of me. Night is about to fall. The sun is resisting against the reign of obscurity. How beautiful are the red reflections from the sun. Today was December 1st, my birthday is coming up in a few days. How many times have I returned from death. O death, look, I’m back again, smile!

My doctors enter, exchange sentences I don’t understand. I try to remember their faces. This brown face, yes, this is the one. The one of the doctor from Amed.

When the professor speaks, the assistants listen attentively. The brown face winks and smiles. His smile says he is happy to find me awake. Go figure what I put him through. He comes toward me, on the right side.

“Heal well. How are you feeling?”

“I feel a lot of pain.”

“It was a difficult surgery for all of us. The pain is normal, it will fade over time, but don’t worry at all, everything went well.”

“Doctor, did I wake up during the surgery.”

When I ask that question, the whole team looks at me, astonished.

“Yes, but how can you remember that? This is an extremely rare occurrence. Believe me, I haven’t quite understood it myself.”

“I remember, you also pumped out my stomach.”

“Yes, we had to proceed to a second anaesthesia. Some of the medication they gave you prior to the surgery caused an unexpected poisoning, we had to pump out your stomach. But don’t worry, as I said, all’s well, and you are stronger than I expected.” 

I feel the need to cough, my throat is so dry.  The doctor takes a cotton swab in a small box on the table and wipes my lips. I could swallow the cotton, I’m so thirsty. While applying it to my lips, he is talking I interrupt him:

“Doctor, compared to the earlier surgeries, my stomach is more swollen. It won’t stay like that, will it?” 

In a second, the whole roomful is laughing.

“This is your biggest problem? I swear, you’re quite an item. I told you, no sports! It will pass in a while.”

Everyone smiles, so do I. The fact someone returning from death’s door thinks about the size of her stomach is a good reason to smile, for sure.

The doctor gives his instructions to his assistants. Everyone leaves, except for our brown face. He comes closer, and holds my fingers:

“You’re a strong Amed girl. Always stay that way, all right? Don’t ever give up,”  he tells me.

He smiles, I smile.

*

As soon as they left, I was sleepy. I don’t know how long I stayed asleep. My eyes opened on unbearable pain. The nurse was at my bedside.

“Nurse, won’t you bring in my children?”

“Right away, I was waiting for you to wake up.”

That time, only a few minutes, stretched out forever. Where are they? Come on now ! I must see them.

And there they are, my little miracles in front of me. What is that fear still  on their faces? They really see all colours coming from their mother, how many times will they live through this fear? Their lips open at the same moment:

“Mamma!”

How can one experience so much sacrifice in a single word?

I smile with difficulty, trying so hard to hold back my tears. They come closer, fearfully. It was the the fear of hurting me, I knew that fear. My mother had many surgeries, every time, I also experienced that fear.

As I’m tied down to the the machines on my right, they approach me from the left. One hand each of the two of them, in my palm. It’s a miracle, being able to touch those hands again. Everyone’s eyes are humid. My sons, my colts, I beg your pardon for having put you through this, forgive your mother.

“We don’t kiss the mamma?” 

The eldest whispers in the younger one’s ear, without realising that I can hear:

“Be gentle, don’t hurt her.”

“Ok, brother.” 

Oh those cheeks, of what silk were they woven?  And do they smell of amber and muscat?

“Mummy, you’re doing OK, yes?”

“You can see it, my baby, don’t be afraid. And take care of your brother, all right? I’ll be home in a few days.”

“Oh, mummy, don’t worry about us. Get better quick and come back home!”

The nurse’s voice breaks in “come on children, you must leave now, it’s time for the treatments for your mother.”  A veil of sadness appears on their faces.  When they kissed me and left, I followed them with my eyes for a long time.

It is more than likely that no one completely understood what I had been saying for hours. Even I had trouble understanding myself. I was on a fine edge between sleep and awakening, and my pains intensified. The nurse added a medication in my serum, my body fell asleep. My tongue weighed tons, my jaw hurt from it. The more time went by, the more my thirst grew. I was sleepy, my eyes closed.

There are thousands of us in life, who are steeped in the thickest of pain… Many things were taken from us, the mysteries of our hearts are lacking. To this country over which we tear ourselves, may this spring night appease our suffering…

Meral Şimşek

Meral Şimşek


Meral Şimşek
Kurdish author, born in 1980 in Diyarbakır. Her literature is 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, Kurdish Literary Association (Kürt Edebiyatçılar Derneği), and Kurdish Writers Association of Mesopotamia (Mezopotamya Yazarlar Derneği).
Meral Şimşek was prosecuted, and convicted for her writings, which focus on social reality. Some of her trials are still ongoing.
She has published three collections of poetry (Mülteci Düşler, Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran, İncir Karası) and a novel (Nar Lekesi). Her writings gave been translated into other languages and have received several awards: In Iraq, in 2016, the second prize and in 2017 the first prize for poetry Deniz Fırat. In 2017, the 3rd Yaşar Kemal poetry prize, in 2018, the best writer/poet prize of Diyarbakır among the “Altın Toprak” awards, in 2020, for her short stories the first prize of the Federation of Alevi Unions of Germany (AABF). The selection Comma Press in England, 2020. And in 2021, the prize for letters, Hacı Bektaş-i Veli, awarded by UNESCO – AABF/KSK. Also in Germany, the first prize for short stories Dersim Gemeinde e V.Köln (The Massacre of Dersim).

Adapted in English from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit magazine qui ne se laisse pas caresser dans le sens du poil.