Two Fears (1988)
by Bakhtiyar Vahabzade (born 1925)

(Dedicated to the memory of our deceased composer Gambar Huseinli)

He was a friend of mine, Composer Gambar,1
Whose songs ever smelled of the native land.
The sweet songs we two had once composed
Were passed from mouth to mouth.

He had never mentioned it, but I knew that
He had been arrested some years before.
But I did not know what his fault was.
I never asked him, nor did he tell.

Once Gambar was complaining to me
about his life,
I felt heaviness of heart...
I asked him:
But why did they arrest you?

Suddenly he exploded like a bomb:
Don't you know why?
Because I had cursed the world.
I had called "The Father of the Nations," an enemy.

Then he became frightened of what he had said,
And suddenly stopped, not breathing a word.
Evidently, he was afraid of me,
Thinking I might be a spy.

"Sorry, I got excited," he said suddenly,
"Sometimes I don't know what I'm doing."
I felt the humility in Gambar's voice,
But in a way he was right to be suspicious.

I supported everything that he said
In order to dispel his doubts...
After arriving home from Gambar's place
I started thinking,
Fear and agitation gave me no peace.

I remembered our talk...
I said to myself, you fool,
Why did you get yourself into trouble?
Why did you confirm his words after all?
How do you know that Gambar was not saying
Those words against that despot deliberately?

When thousands of innocent people
have been executed,
And thousands exiled,
Will they set someone free
Who has called the government leader "enemy"?
Where was the logic in this, after all?

I couldn't believe his curses were honest.
What if he were complaining deliberately
about his life, about the times,
What if he were trying to get my opinion.
And what did I do? Me, fool that I am,
Told him what I thought.

That night I couldn't sleep,
With thoughts I fought...
What thoughts did I have:
When they come to imprison me,
They will search my archives,
And then my writings, dear me.
I thought what I had, white or black!
Like a stranger I looked inside myself,
Then got out of bed at midnight,
And began scrutinizing my poems.
Like an inspector, I looked at the poems
Still unpublished
And a shudder came over me.
"If they find these," I said to myself,
"That despot will kill me,"
Maybe to burn them? What else could I do?
After all, who is indifferent to the life he leads?

Such trouble to burn the poems
That demand truth and justice from this world!
I have to sacrifice my thoughts and feelings
Just to live out the rest of my life!

My body became cold, my heart trembled
With the fire and flame of the burning poems.

But I spared some of them
Saying, "It is enough,"
Saying, "That'll do."
I spared some of my poems that day,
Crumpled papers still remain.
I hid them for the future,
I hid them in my mother's artificial leg.
I turned over my thoughts and judgments
page by page:

"As soon as the dawn breaks
I'll go to him.
I'll ask him not to betray me,
I'll tell him I was lying yesterday,
'Let's keep it between ourselves.
I was agreeing just to support what you had said.
In fact, I love that genius leader very much.
He has bestowed these happy days upon us.
He is our only support in this world,
He is our thinking brain, our seeing eye.'"
"What a mistake I've made,"
Thinking so till morning, I blamed myself.

As soon as the dawn broke, I got up and dressed.
At the same time, someone began knocking
at the door...
Who might it be so early in the morning?
I stood before the mirror
My body trembling.

I had no strength even to open the door.
"He must have already betrayed me last night.
They're coming to arrest me, where shall I flee?"
And knocks continued-
Knock, knock and knock.

The knocking wouldn't cease
Without achieving its aim...
"Who's there?"
"It's me, brother."
It was Gambar's voice.
That was enough for me.
Perhaps he had come as a witness,
Or come to make me be silent.
I opened the door with trembling hands,
He fell on my neck and embraced me,
And began crying bitterly.
He cast a sorrowful glance
To the left, then to the right.
Began hastily interpreting
The talk we had had a day before.

"I was just joking yesterday;
In truth, I love that genius leader.
He is our only support in this world.
He is our thinking brain, our seeing eye."
I understood him,
But kept silent... Realizing the falsehood
Of all those interpretations.

Time had made hypocrites of us all,
Making us deny all we had said a day after our talk,
It turned out he also had not slept that night.

Gambar Huseinli is perhaps most fondly remembered for his children's song, "Jujalarim" - My Little Chicks [See AI 5.4, Winter 1997]. Sound Sample: SEARCH at

2 The father of the nations - meaning Stalin.

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