I remember reading this poem as a teenager and loving it, but I had a different memory of it; it somehow sounds more melodramatic now. But it’s Murathan Mungan; so fair enough, and I still wanted to try translating it. I’m not really pleased with the result but here is my attempt:
Our doors stood next to each other, opening to the same balcony, in the bed-and-breakfast where we stayed. We kept bumping into each other in the afternoons; shared bathroom, shared kitchen, shy hello’s. Our laundry dried next to each other on the same balcony, which gave me the shivers. We watched the sunset sipping white wine, exchanging a few awkward, clumsy pleasantries, which also gave me the shivers. Our shadows sat next to each other in the diminishing light of the balcony, becoming blurry, and eventually one.
We couldn’t help smile when our eyes met; happened to be reading the same book when we saw each other for the first time on the beach.
Summer wasn’t in full swing yet; beaches dotted with parasols here and there, the spring sun winking.
The boats rocking gently in front of the bed-and-breakfast, the timid stalks of the flowers, the patchy shades in the sunset are what stayed with me. We were both lonely, trying to avoid each other, in that remote coastal village whose name nobody knows.
The things we shared, though, like watching the sunset together, evolved spontaneously into some kind of togetherness.
Our skin started to burn; our bodies aching to feel the presence of each other even in the absence of physical contact.
The call of the skin was ready to fall into all the traps set up for it.
We were on the balcony again that evening, the sun long gone. Surrounded by laundry left to dry, songs from a distance and the smell of thyme in the air, you looked at me differently somehow.
Then you said, ever so softly:
“This is the first time I feel like touching a man’s skin.”
That’s when summer started for me.
“Go ahead, then” I said.
Silence. Long stares. The fight to resist the urge legible on your face. Then you got up, went to your room and slowly closed the door behind you, without a word. I sat there, on that balcony, for hours on end that night.
When I got up in the morning, I could see through the open door that you’d left. Only the towel that you left on the balcony was fluttering in the wind.
I never met you again, anywhere, in the following summers. Come to think of it, it’s been 13 full years. Do you still keep the memory alive, of the urge that awakened 13 years ago?
It just occurred to me, as I am writing this poem, that I don’t remember your name, but the colour of the towel fluttering on the balcony is still vivid in my memory.
13 years later, on this scorching day when I broke up with my beloved, I ask why you, all of a sudden, came to my mind. Then it dawns on me:
A love is made up of many loves, none of which is ever left behind.
Here is the source text if anyone wants to compare.