e. irem az

of and for Murat D.
and other mineworkers
who lost their limbs in the mines

What are these two fingers worth?
Tell me, Sister,            how much?

Seven fifteen in the morning, it was
in one of the legs of the mine, almost time
to clock out, I was working the night shift
as the rammer hammer operator. My low back
pain got worse, I stood up straight,
there was a hose, a black hose,
I put my hand on it to lean on it
I grabbed it.

Mechanics ran the leg, they did and
a loud noise reached me, only then I felt
a pain in my hand, then I screamed and
saw my fingers fall.

This is how two fingers of mine were severed.
We went to the hospital in Izmir, they stitched
my middle finger back. I told the doctor,
I said, don’t stich it if it won’t work. He
didn’t say anything, my hand was fixed,
my hand didn’t close, my hand
stayed   like   a   bat.

The lawyer said I can get maybe
100 thousand liras or less for them.
Two fingers gone,
no, two and a half,
inside a mine never properly audited.
I am determined to be
40% responsible for the accident.

I have left nothing to be afraid of.
Who are in the mines:
safety specialists
who are paid wages by the company.
Listen to me, you are educated, right?
I’m asking you, could you
tell on the place that provides
your   wages?   You   couldn’t.

What else is there to say?
Why would they find me 40% responsible?
This company received fines who knows
how many times for overproduction.
What do you think that means?
It means H U R R Y.

That’s that,
one wants justice.
How? I don’t know
if there will ever be justice.

         I understand.

What did you understand?
         I’m not sure, Brother.

Author’s note: This incident took place in Imbat Mining Co. in the Soma Coal Basin of Aegean Turkey. A third finger of Murat’s left hand had lost a very significant amount of nerve function, and he was not able to fully bend it. This was part of the reason why he said that his hand “stayed like a bat” as he was unable to close his hand since the initial operation. The condition of this third finger was diagnosed six years after the incident during another round of medical examinations. When we met, he was in the process of taking a full medical board examination in order to obtain an official report with the combined disability rate of 40 percent, which would render him eligible for disability benefits. Even after this additional diagnosis, when talking about his injury, he continued to forget that a third finger of his left hand was also disabled, though not severed or amputated. All of the words and differently marked pauses in the poem belong to him, except for “no, two and a half,” which are my fabulation. All of the italicized words belong to me, and were uttered by me during our conversation in May 2019. After multiple trials over the course of three years, Murat obtained the report in 2020. In between, he and his family moved back to their hometown Zonguldak.

This poem is a translated and revised version of one of the poems in my ethnographic-documentary poetry collection in Turkish, titled Sade Yaşadığımız [Our Sheer Living], and published by Nod Publishing in December 2020.

e. irem az is an anthropologist, poet, and postdoctoral fellow in disaster studies at Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Her research interests are at the intersections of disaster, labor, disability/debility, and ecological unpredictability. She recently defended her dissertation, “Mining Interruption: Life, labor and coal after the Soma mine disaster.” She is the author of an ethnographic-documentary poetry collection in Turkish, titled Sade Yaşadığımız [Our Sheer Living] (Nod, 2020).