Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Riehlife Poem of the Day: Turkish poet Crazy Ali recites “Do You Know”—recounted by Marcelline Burns

He introduced himself as “Crazy Ali”, and he wasn’t thinking about selling something to us. He wanted to share.

Crazy Ali, The Turkish Poet (Photo by Marcelline Burns)

I asked, “Who gave you that name?” to which he responded with obvious pride, “I gave it to myself more than a quarter century ago. I am Crazy Ali, the poet.” In my mind, I scoffed, “A poet! In this poor and remote place?” Exactly, and what Ali wanted to share was his poetry. Three American women had wandered near his shop, and he wanted us to come inside his shop. Politely, he begged our permission to recite one of his poems. I shall be forever grateful that we entered and that we listened.

On that day, Crazy Ali was a handsome man with kind eyes and lines that bespoke many years of joys and sorrows. His recitation was memorable, intensely and beautifully spoken. As we stood amid ancient wares in his dim shop, he recited these lines in a rich, emotion-laden voice.


Do you understand how large the world is?

Do you know what things are inside?

People, people, people

What they have done, what they will do…

They haven’t loved each other,

They said your color is different, your shape is different,

They said your religion is different, your rituals are different,

They fought and fought.

Do you know what’s going to happen?

The world is so large, how can I know?

Millions, millions of people,

But small minds can think bigger thoughts.

I see a small village,

Cats with dogs, chickens with foxes,

They live together.

How can people learn to do the same?

The world is large inside your mind,

The small village is there,

Whatever is in your mind, if you wish it

Even the sun will rise there.

The experience was unexpectedly, profoundly moving, and when he finished the four of stood for a long moment in a kind of reverential silence. Finally, I quietly said, “Ali, the world needs more men like you.” He nodded and then rather timidly showed us a thick ring binder. “Four hundred poems. I wrote all of them.”

copyright 2008 by Marcelline Burns

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3 Responses »

  1. Thank you Marcy. I feel like I just returned from a trip!!!

  2. Marcy did a great job taking me into Ali's world. This
    incredible piece fit right into a beautifully presented
    newletter. Bravo!

  3. What a charming and enchanting man! Thanks for introducing us, Marcy, in your well-written story.

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