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The wind blew me to Izmir in the summer of 1984, and I have never left. I travel extensively, but I am always glad to come home. There is much to be said for a city which is situated on a bay, is multicultural and liberal, has something of a small-town feel, and is manageable on a day-to-day basis. My work takes me to Istanbul often, and I suspect that as a younger man I would have enjoyed its splendour and energy immensely, but these days I am unwilling to sit in traffic for hours and have a low tolerance of jostling crowds. A colleague recently told me that, with 450,000 new residents every year, the Istanbul city planners spend their time shuffling the locations of bus-stops, having given up any hope of creating order amongst chaos. I am relatively at peace here, and feel safe and welcome.

IZMIR by Necati Cumalı

I scramble the letters


I gather them up, shuffle them, cut them
Lay them out in front of me
And hunt for my place

I would have liked to give you your name I…..
Your name was a city with trees
That permeated you like a fragrance
Enclosed you like a shell
You brought me red roses
You healed me
On roads damp with autumn rain
My arm at your waist we walked along

How many white pigeons soared in the sky
And gulls and sailboats on the sea
Grape-ripening summer
Autumn afternoons yellow as quince
Fermented on the greengrocer’s shelves
Morning noon and night a woman
At the garden gate of a house
Shook out the tablecloths
Smiling sadly at the perched sparrows
Each of her children in a different city

Streets that grow narrower and narrower
Houses that get smaller and smaller
Emerge into the joy of living
Slopes descending to the sea
Are knotted with laughter
The path to the work place
Leads to their doors
Dining tables are one
With sitting rooms
That’s the Izmir I love

The Izmir that comes in a sweat
As long as the sun slaps her waters
No hand can wipe away
The light of those eyes
Or extinguish that hope
Oh Izmir, working man’s brother
City of invincible honour
With your sun-filled days stay…