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Fall 2008, Volume 25.1

Poetry

Forough FarrokzhadPhoto of Forough Farrokzhad.

—Translated from Farsi by Liz Waldner, with Kamyar Arasteh


Forough Farrokhzad (born January 5, 1935) was an Iranian film director and is generally considered one of the most accomplished modern poets of Iran. She was born in Tehran the third of seven children and attended school until the ninth grade, then learned painting and sewing at a girl’s school for the manual arts. At age sixteen she married Parviz Shapour, an acclaimed satirist, but got divorced soon and started writing poetry. Her first volume is entitled
The Captive (1955) and was followed by two more volumes, The Wall (1956) and Rebellion (1958). In 1962, she made The House is Black, a film about Iranians affected by leprosy, which won numerous awards worldwide. In 1963 she published the volume Another Birth. Her poetry is mature and sophisticated and represents a profound change from previous modern Iranian poetic conventions. She died in a car accident on February 13, 1967.

Liz Waldner (who together with Kamyar Arasteh translated these selections of Forough’s work) is the author of several poetry collections, with poems current or forthcoming in Poetry, New American Writing, The Journal, and The New Yorker. She also has several poems in this issue of Weber.

Kamyar Arasteh is lead author of scientific papers in Psychology, as well as of a book, The American Reichstag. He is also a contributor to sites such as dissidentvoice.org.

 

My Heart Breaks For The Little Garden

No one is thinking of the flowers
        of the fish.

No one wants to believe that the little garden is dying
        that the heart of the little garden under the sun
                is inflamed
        that the mind of the little garden is little by little emptying
                of the memories of green

and the sense of the little garden is like a thing fallen away
        alone, strange
rotted in the solitude of the little garden.

The yard of our house is alone
in waiting for the rain of an unknown cloud, yawns
        and the little pool is empty.
Little inexperienced stars fall from the height of trees to earth
and from the portals of the unwashed windows of the house of the fish at night
        come the sound of coughing.
The yard of our house is lonely.

Father says
        It’s over for me, I’m too old for that
        I’ve carried my burden, I did my work.
And in his room, from sunup to sundown, either
reads the Shahnameh or the Nasekh Altavareekh.

Father says to Mother
        Curse every fish and every bird when I die
        What difference whether the little garden is
                or the little garden isn’t?
        For me, the salary of retirement is enough.

        Mother, all her life, is a prayer cloth spread
                on the threshold
                of the terror of hell.

Mother, always, at the bottom of everything
        is looking for the footprint of a sin
and thinks that what has contaminated the little garden
        is the blasphemy of a little plant.

Mother, all day long, prays.
Mother is a natural sinner and the breath of her prayers
                blesses all the flowers
                and blesses all the fish
                and blesses herself.
Mother is waiting for the second coming
        and the manna that will rain down.

My brother calls the garden a cemetery
        laughs at the disarray of grass
and estimates the number of corpses of fish that under the sick glass of the water
        turn into rotten bits.

My brother is addicted to philosophy.
My brother finds the cure for the little garden in its annihilation.
He gets drunk and beats the wall with his fist and tries to pretend
that he is very pained and tired and disappointed.
He carries his disappointment like his birth certificate
and calendar and handkerchief and lighter and pen
with him to the bazaar
and his disappointment is so little
that it gets lost in the crowd at the bar.

And my sister, who was the friend of the flowers,
and when Mother hit her would take the simple words of her heart to the quiet
kind gathering of the flowers, and at times would invite the family of the fish
to sun and sweets…
                                she, in her house on the other side of the city
                                she, in the middle of her artificial house
                        with her artificial goldfish in the shelter of the love of her artificial spouse
                        and under the branches of artificial apple trees sings artificial songs
                                        and makes natural babies
                                she, whenever she comes to see us and the corner of her skirt
                        is contaminated by the little garden’s poverty, takes a cologne bath
                                she, whenever she comes to see us,
                                        is pregnant.

The yard of our house is lonely.
The yard of our house is lonely.

All day, from behind the door, come sounds of tearing and explosion.
Our neighbors, in the soil of their little gardens, plant mines and machine guns
        instead of flowers.

Our neighbors all put covers over their tiled little pools
        and the tiled little pools, without wanting it themselves
                are hidden warehouses of dynamite.
The children of the alley have filled their schoolbags with tiny bombs.
The yard of our house is confused.

I am afraid of this time that has lost its soul.
Imagining the futility of so many hands
        the alienation of so many faces
I am afraid.
Like a student who loves her geometry lessons, I am alone.
And I think it is possible to take the little garden to the hospital.

And I think—
        I think—
                I think…

And the heart of the little garden under the sun is inflamed
and the mind of the little garden is little by little
        emptying of its green memories.

 

In the Green Waters of Summer

More solitary than a leaf
in the green waters of summer
serenely I sail
with my cargo of happinesses long-past
        to the land of death
        to the shores of autumn’s sorrows

I cast myself off in a shadow
        in the unreliable shadow of love
        in the fleeting shadow of good-fortune
        in the shadow of all-things-pass

Nights, when a confused breeze whirls
        in the shallow and heart-sick sky

Nights, when a bloody fog winds
        through the veins’ blue alleys

Nights, when we are alone
        with the tremors of our souls

Alone—the feeling of being, sick being
stirs in the beat of the pulse.

A secret awaits in the valleys’ waiting
       
This is what they carved
on the fearsome rocks of the mountain’s peaks
                                with the line of their fall,
those whom the silence of the mountain
        filled one night
                with a bitter, begging cry…

 In the anxiousness of the full hand
the calm of the empty hand is not.
The silence of ruin is beautiful.
This, a woman sings in the waters,
in the green waters of summer.

As if, you might think,
        she lived in ruins.

We, with our breath, pollute each other,
        pollute with the piety of happiness.
We are afraid of the sound of wind.
We blanch at doubt’s shadows
        seeping into the gardens of our kisses.
At every feast in the castle of light
        we tremble in terror lest the roof cave in.

Now you are here
        spread like the lilac’s fragrance
in the morning’s alleys
heavy on my chest
        hot in my hands
in my hair beside yourself
                consumed, unconscious—

Now you are here.

Something vast, dark, lush
something disturbed
        like the distant sound of day,
                troubled,
eclipses the pupils of my eyes.

Maybe they take me from the water.
Maybe they pluck me from the branch.
Maybe they close me like a door to moments later
Maybe…
        I don’t see more.

We, useless, grew on a useless land.
We rain uselessly on a useless land.
We saw Nothing on the roads.
It moved like a king
on its yellow-winged horse.

Alas, we are happy and serene.
Alas, we are heart-sick and silent.
Happy because we love.
Sick because love is a curse.

 

Gift

I speak from utmost night.

I, from the depths of darkness
and from the depths of night, speak.

If you come to my house,
for me, O kind one, bring light

and a little door from which to gaze
on the crowd in the fortunate alley.

 

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