A poem


Forough Farrokhzad

My entire soul is a murky verse
Reiterating you within itself
Carrying you to the dawn of eternal burstings and blossomings
In this verse, I sighed you, AH!
In this verse,
I grafted you to trees, water and fire

Perhaps life is
A long street along which a woman
With a basket passes every day

Perhaps life
Is a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
Perhaps life is a child returning home from school

Perhaps life is the lighting of a cigarette
Between the narcotic repose of two lovemakings
Or the puzzled passage of a passerby
Tipping his hat
Saying good morning to another passerby with a vacant smile

Perhaps life is that blocked moment
When my look destroys itself in the pupils of your eyes
And in this there is a sense
Which I will mingle with the perception of the moon
And the reception of darkness
In a room the size of one solitude
My heart
The size of one love
Looks at the simple pretexts of its own happiness,
At the pretty withering of flowers in the flower pots
At the sapling you planted in our flowerbed
At the songs of the canaries
Who sing the size of one window.
This is my lot
This is my lot
My lot
Is a sky, which the dropping of a curtain seizes from me
My lot is going down an abandoned stairway
And joining with something in decay and nostalgia
My lot is a cheerless walk in the garden of memories
And dying in the sorrow of a voice that tells me:
“I love
Your hands”
I will plant my hands in the flowerbed
I will sprout, I know, I know, I know
And the sparrows will lay eggs
In the hollows of my inky fingers
I will hang a pair of earrings of red twin cherries
Round my ears
I will put dahlia petals on my nails
There is an alley
Where the boys who were once in love with me,
With those disheveled hairs, thin necks and gaunt legs
Still think of the innocent smiles of a little girl
Who was one night blown away by the wind
There is an alley which my heart
Has stolen from places of my childhood
The journey of a volume along the line of time
And impregnating the barren line of time with a volume
A volume conscious of an image
Returning from the feast of a mirror
This is the way
Someone dies
And someone remains
No fisherman will catch pearls
From a little stream flowing into a ditch
I Know a sad little mermaid
Dwelling in the ocean
Softly, gently blowing
Her heart into a wooden flute
A sad little mermaid
Who dies with a kiss at night

A poem

In This Dead-End Road

Ahmad Shamlou

They sniff your breath
lest you have said: I love you.
They sniff your heart--
(such strange times, my sweet)
and they flog love
at every checkpoint.
We must hide love in the backroom.

In the cold of this dead-end crooked road
they stoke their pyres
with our poems and songs.
Don’t risk thinking,
for these are strange times, my sweet.
The man who beats at the door
in the nadir of night,
has come to kill the lamp.
We must hide light in the backroom.

Those are butchers in passageways
with their chopping blocks
and bloodies cleavers.
(Such strange times, my sweet)
They carve smiles off faces
and sever songs from mouths.
We must hide pleasure in the back room.

Canaries are barbequed
on flames of lilies and jasmines…
(such strange times, my sweet)
and the devil, drunk on victory,
feasts at the table set for our wake.
We must hide God in the back room.

A poem

The Primeval Call

Sohrab Sepehri

Where are my shows?
Who was it who called Sohrab?
It was a familiar voice like the touch of the wind on the leave.
My mother is asleep

So are Manouchehr and Parvaneh and perhaps all the townsfolk. The June night passes gently over seconds like an elegy,
And a cool breeze from the corner of the blanket sweeps my sleep.
It smells of separation:
My pillow is full of the song of the swallow plumes.

Morning shall break,
The sky will migrate
With this cup of water.

I must go tonight!
I who spoke to the folk in this region through the widest window,
Never heard a word that matched time;
No loving eye stared at the ground;
Nobody was enchanted by looking at the garden,
Nobody took a magpie seriously at a farm.
I am dejected like a cloud.
When I behold Houri - the neighbor's full grown lass -
Studying theology
At the foot of the rarest elm tree on earth.

There are other things also - moments of exaltation
(For example I saw a poetess
So absorbed watching the horizon
That the sky laid eggs in her eyes;
And one night out of other nights,
A man questioned me:
"How long does it take to the rising of grapes?)

Tonight I must go!
I must take a suitcase
Big enough to contain my shirt of loneliness
And walk in a direction
Where epic-singing trees can be seen;
Towards the vast wordless expanse which keeps calling me.
Someone called me again: Sohrab!,
Where are my shoes?

A poem

We Didn't Know

Manouchehr Atashi

Had we advanced a bit further
Our path would have perhaps led to the sea,
Our sleep would have perhaps turned into dream.

Had we paddled more
Perhaps we would have an agreeable wind,
If we didn't return to the coast,
The water would perhaps have sucked our corpses into the depth.

We were neither a rushing river,
To gallop over, obstacles, sharp ends, plains to... the sea,
Neither were we a moat to serve as watering trough for the mangy wolf...
Nor a mangy wolf which is after its carnal desires,
To submit ..... to the secret moment of a cursed death undisturbed.

We didn't who called us, when and why? whom we called
and why we joined the path
Or why we were delayed.

.... We didn't know who we were and when we existed,
And who has tied this dog inside
ourselves to the chain of our vein, And when.

We don't know who we were and who we are,
Whether our pain was from a wound inflected by a heavenly stone
Or we ourselves are a stinking wound in the body of existence...
We didn't know.

A poem

I am like the King of a Rainy Country

Charles Baudelaire

I am like the King of a Rainy Country,
Rich, but powerless; young, yet feeling wintry;
no longer flattered by the obsequious bow;
Bored by my dogs and by every other creature now,
Nothing brightens my day, not the Hunt, not falconry,
Not the dying people below my balcony.
My fool’s grotesque ballading
does not distract me from my malady.
Carved with fleur-de-lys, my bed is a tomb
while sequestered ladies who think every prince a bloom
hope by their impudent dress to make me their own;
they will never coax a mouse out of this young skeleton.
Shall we turn to those who claim they turn lead
to gold though they and we remain the living dead?
I bathe in the baths of blood the Romans brought us
back in the days of great power and purpose.
Even they cannot warm this dazed cadaver
slipping into the place where the salt has lost its savor.

A poem

A Sybil

Rainer Maria Rilke

Long before our time they called her old,
But she'd walk down the same road every day.
Her age became too much to say
In years — and, like a forest's, would be told

In centuries. She comes to stand at dusk —
Her spot each time the same — and to foretell.
She is a hollow, wrinkled husk,
Dark as a fire-gutted citadel.

She has to turn her flock of talking loose
Or it will grow too crowded to relieve.
Flapping and screaming, words are flying all

Around her. Then, returning home to roost,
They find a perch beneath her eyebrows' eaves,
And in that shadow wait for night to fall.

A poem

Gacela of the Dark Death

Federico García Lorca

I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

I don't want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,
how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.
I'd rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for
nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn
with its snakelike nose.

I want to sleep for half a second,
a second, a minute, a century,
but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,
that I have a golden manger inside my lips,
that I am the little friend of the west wind,
that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

When it's dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me
because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,
and pour a little hard water over my shoes
so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,
because I want to live with that shadowy child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

A poem

Abandoned Farmhouse

Ted Kooser

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,

says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm—a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.