Aziz Nesin was a Turkish poet and political activist who fought for freedom of speech. His poem “Be Silent” is a timeless great poem.
Be silent; don’t speak.
It is a shame; stop your voice;
Be silent already.
And if speech is made of silver
Silence is made of gold.
The first words I heard as a child
when I cried, laughed, played were
At school they told me half truths; they told me: “what do you care? Be silent”
When a girl first kissed me, they told me “Shhh be silent; don’t say a word”
Stop your voice; and don’t speak; be silent.
This went on until I became 20 years old.
The words of the grown up; the silence of the child.
I saw blood in the streets
“what do you care” they told me “you gonna get in trouble, be silent”
Later on my bosses got angry
“don’t get involved; keep your nose clean; be silent”
I got married, had children; I taught them to be silent
My wife was loyal and industrious and knew how to be silent.
She had a prudent mother who told her: “be silent”
During leap years my parents, my neighbors advised me
“be silent; don’t get involved; pretend you did not see anything; be silent”
We might have not had an envied relationship with our neighbors
But we were connected to them by
“Be silent” this person said and that one.
Those high up: “be silent”
Those below: “be silent.”
“Be silent” said our neighborhood
“Be silent” our city.
We swallowed our tongue.
We have a mouth but no voice
We even formed an association:
“The silent ones”
And there were many of us: a whole country, a big power
We were successful; we reached high goals; we received medals and rewards
Only with “be silent”
This “be silent” a great art.
Teach it to your children, your wife, your mother in law
And when you feel the need to speak
Deracinate your tongue
Make it stop.
Cut it off completely
Throw it to the dogs
It is an unnecessary tool when you don’t use it correctly.
You will sleep well at night this way; no nightmares; no doubts; no guilt
You will not feel ashamed in front of your kids
You will save yourself from having to speak
To say “you are right; I am like you; one of you”
How I wish I could speak
But you will not
You will become a salivating verbalist
Cut off your tongue
Cut it off now
Become a mute
Since you are not gonna speak; you should dare that much.
Cut off your tongue.
This way you will be consistent with my plans
With my dreams
I retain my tongue amidst tears and cries
Because I fear that there will come a moment
Where I won’t be able to take it anymore
I will burst out
I won’t be afraid
I will hope
And every minute
I will fill my throat
With one syllable
Which will tell me: