The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its Exiles

The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its Exiles

by Sholeh Wolpe (Editor)

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Overview

During the 1979 revolution, Iranians from all walks of life, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, socialist, or atheist, fought side-by-side to end one tyrannical regime, only to find themselves in the clutches of another. When Khomeini came to power, freedom of the press was eliminated, religious tolerance disappeared, women’s rights narrowed to fit within a conservative interpretation of the Quran, and non-Islamic music and literature were banned. Poets, writers, and artists were driven deep underground and, in many cases, out of the country altogether. This moving anthology is a testament to both the centuries-old tradition of Persian poetry and the enduring will of the Iranian people to resist injustice. The poems selected for this collection represent the young, the old, and the ancient. They are written by poets who call or have called Iran home, many of whom have become part of a diverse and thriving diaspora.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611860344
Publisher: Michigan State University Press
Publication date: 02/01/2012
Pages: 182
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Born in Iran, and now an American citizen, Sholeh Wolpé is an award-winning poet, literary translator, and writer.

Read an Excerpt

THE FORBIDDEN

POEMS FROM IRAN AND ITS EXILES

Michigan State University Press

Copyright © 2012 Michigan State University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-61186-034-4


Chapter One

    And Behold
      Simin Behbahani

      Do they not consider the camel, how it was created?
      —Qoran, Sura 88:17

    And behold the camel, how it was created:
    not from mud and water,
    but, as if from patience and a mirage.
    And you know how the mirage deceives the eyes.
    And the mirage knows not the secret of your patience:
    how you endure the thirst, the sand, and the salt marshes,
    and gaze at the immense presence with your weary eyes.
    And behold how this gaze is marked with salt grooves
    like the dry lines remaining on your cheeks after a stream of tears.
    And behold the tears that have drained from you
    all means of consciousness.
    With what nothingness should you fill this emptied space?
    And behold in this emptied space the agitation of a thirsty camel,
    made mad beyond the limits of its patience,
    reluctant to carry meekly its heavy burden.
    And behold its two incisors gleaming madly in a row of angry teeth.
    Patience spawns hatred and hatred the fatal wound:
    behold with what vengeance the camel
    bit through the arteries of its driver.
    The mirage lost its patience.
    And behold the camel.

      Translated by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa, from
      A Cup of Sin, courtesy of Syracuse University Press


    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 bloodied cleavers.
      (such strange times, my sweet)
    They hack off smiles from faces
    and songs from mouths.

        We must hide pleasure in the backroom.

    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.

        Translated by Sholeh Wolpé


    Death Sermon
      Nader Naderpour

    Hellish beast!
    In my sight, you are a dark tempest
    that has suddenly seized a thousand youthful leaves.
    Let the wailing of your prisoners
    grow so loud that they cannot be contained.
    Let the flood of people's tears and blood flow
    until the roses of revenge rise from the soil.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé and Sahba Shayani


    The State of Red
      Mandana Zandian

    The stairway of our house was narrow
    the stairway of our house was supposed to be
    a place for hide-and-seek, for running up and down.
    It was supposed to be white,
    gleaming like the Milky Way.

    The stairway of our house
    was supposed to always laugh.

    The air raid siren was red.
    The siren cursed our stairway,
    sullied it with darkness, dirt, and stench.
    The siren smelled of hate.

    The stairway of our house,
    in its fear of the siren, collapsed
    into itself and became a deep well,
    dark, empty, and dry,
    and inside it my dreams birthed headless nightmares
    wrapped in layers of sounds—howls of jets and wolves.
    My mother would press her head
    against the stairway roof,
    her pulse pounding in her eyes,
    terrified lest she fall and be trampled
    under our neighbor's pious feet—
    the same neighbor who praised God incessantly
    for the war's boundless bounties.

    And my father would shoot my hands
    with his eyes' bullets
    all the way from the war at the border
    so that he would not forget how young
    I was, dying beside my dolls.

    And Tehran ...
    never imagined it would become this red.
    Its red sky and red earth
    rumbled and quaked like thunder,
    attacked our stairway with fury.

    But tomorrow was always a new day!
    A day where the earth became pregnant
    with new parts of my classmates' dismembered arms.
    A day of twenty new lies I could slurp up in our history class—
    and our school believed it could look for shelter
    during the geography lesson.
    And God ...
    God always yawned.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé


    Parts of a Pedestrian in a Tunnel
      Rasoul Younan

    The sky was like an inverted beach
    with blazing sand.
    Punctured shoulders
    kept alive the fear
    that drilled itself into our bones.
    Was it morning or evening?
    We don't remember.
    Were we awake or asleep?
    We don't remember.
    It was raining fire and sand,
    still,
    we don't remember anything.
    We don't like
    the police coming to our door.

    We were four, all of us insane,
    inside cubic nightmares,
    and what we wished for
    was for the sun to rise at midnight ...
    We pulled the bloodied sun
    from the throats of roosters
    and took to the streets.
    In the streets they gave us plastic flowers
    and we foolishly fell in love
    and betrayed with sincerity.
    This is how
    our story became known to all.

    We desired love
    without its false trimmings,
    a world without guns.
    On dark walls
    we painted red roses.
    Passersby laughed at us.
    Laughed at us, the passersby.
    All we did
    was look at them.
    Roads
    had knotted themselves around the city.
    We stayed in the city, decaying and singing:
    The train that cannot carry us away from here
    is not a train.


    We were big boys
    with small desires.
    We were the small desires of big boys.
    And behind the doors and windows
    the storm that dwelled, then subsided,
    was the chronicle of our unfulfilled wishes.
    We were four, all of us insane,
    and our life
    was a tragic pedestrian
    in an obscure tunnel.
    We were four, all of us insane.
    Four teardrops
    the world had shed ...

    We walked the streets until dawn.
    Until dawn,
    we walked the streets.
    Yet both the street
    and the night
    were endless.

    We danced in the moonlight—
      well, we were insane.
    In the moonlight, we danced.
    The city whirled around our heads.
    Suddenly,
    the police siren
    halted our simple celebration.
    We were afraid.
    We shrank into a corner.
    Later, the garbage collectors came.
    They swept us away
    along with all the dead leaves
    and night's left over garbage.
    We were four pieces of rubbish—
    they swept us away.
    But the city remained full of trash.

      Translated by Hassan Fayyad


    Of Sea Wayfarers
      Esmail Khoi

      Sign of a true lover is that he emerges cold from Hell
      Proof of a true wayfarer is that he comes forth dry
      from the sea.

      —Sanaii

    You alone have remained.

    Those sea wayfarers
    said:
    from water we will come forth dry.
    Riding on the waves of events, they said:
    we hold the radium of vigilance
    to whose lustrous, untouched core
    particles of the dark have no passage.

    Holding umbrellas of denial
      they said:
    we will survive the toxic rain,
    they said:
    even
      the storm's debris
      cannot devastate us.

    They said ...
    They said ...
    They said ... and

    plain as day they saw
    that behind the oysters' veil,
    pearls

      —perhaps even blinded to themselves—
    winked and consorted with corpses and grime,
    as if they plainly understood
    their vain umbrellas
    were soon to become the swamp's wide lilies.

    From afar, in the break of light,
    they even watched the oysters
    decay in the dark waters.
    They saw;
    and in a thousand mirrors, laughed.

    You alone have remained.
    Stay, alone.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé


    Blood and Ash
      Nader Naderpour

    The earthquake that shook the house
    recast everything in one night.
    Like a flame, it burned the slumbering world,
    filling its morning ash with blood,
    hiding women's faces and flowers'
    colors beneath rancor's soot.
    It rocked death's cradle
    and devoured people like a grave.
    Beneath history's crumbling canopy
    it galloped on the graves of kings.
    It smashed ancient statues with no regard
    for their makers' art.
    It blocked the road of lovers' union,
    shattered the lantern of the poets' inspiration,
    tore out the instruments' melodious veins,
    and drenched the chalice's brow with blood.
    It buried deep in past sorrows
    the priceless treasures of happy days.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé and Sahba Shayani


    Camouflage Costumes
      Granaz Moussavi

    The clamor of dusty children
    changes in the throats of flutes.
    For the children in narrow alleys, a gun
    is two fingers put together;
    and death
    is closing of eyelids and rolling around in dirt.
    Tomorrow
    imaginary guns shall be left and forgotten
    on the decks of paper boats,
    and the camouflage costumes, once too large for the world's children
    shall fit.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé


    Untitled
      Shams Langeroodi

      1.
    Look how they have watered the trees
    so that instead of fruit they bear pigeon eggs;
    how they have swept the streets
    so that it is empty of people;
    how they have told me
    that if I write four more poems
    you would come—but now say
    that I must return and rendezvous with you
    at the start my poems.

    But I will not erase these verses,
    for one day or night you will come.
    It is even possible you may crack out of an egg
    of a Simourgh-like bird, a bird
    who in Attar's Conference of the Birds
    began as Si Mourgh—thirty birds—
    to finally become one: The One.
    But we—
    we were one who became many.

      2.
    I miss you;
    until I'm happy again
    tree branches shall grow in your shape;
    a small bird whose name I do not know
    shall pour your name on my book;
    the sun, shape of a copper butterfly,
    shall flutter about my voice.
    I know that silence is silent because of me
    but I miss you and I push away
    my words so I can see you.

      3.
    Many poets
    grow old without a song or a poem,
    searching for their other halves.

    Many poets
    leaf through pages of darkness to the end,
    searching for a patch of light.

    Many poets
    who have no pens, pen poems
    with the fingertips of the wind,
    iridescent as bubbles upon water.

    How leaf and pen are wasted in forests
    that shade birds—wordless, pen-less birds
    who orate with songs while
    half lit by light, half hidden in shade.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé and Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak


    A M O B ! T U M U L T !
      Peyman Vahabzadeh

    Six billion people
      —shift and shove—
        waiting in line

    (You see, tonight
      they are supposed to shoot all poets.)

    I look everywhere
    but can't find myself.
    I am terrified.

    "Don't be afraid! Maintain a revolution-style calm!
    Those of you whose turn has not come tonight feel
    assured that we will hang you by next week!"

    I am relieved.
    I'm sure I'll find myself
      by then.

      Translated by Sholeh Wolpé

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE FORBIDDEN Copyright © 2012 by Michigan State University. Excerpted by permission of Michigan State University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments....................xiii
A Note to the Reader....................xv
THE STATE OF RED....................3
And Behold, Simin Behbahani....................4
In This Dead-End Road, Ahmad Shamlou....................6
Death Sermon, Nader Naderpour....................7
The State of Red, Mandana Zandian....................9
Parts of a Pedestrian in a Tunnel, Rasoul Younan....................12
Of Sea Wayfarers, Esmail Khoi....................14
Blood and Ash, Nader Naderpour....................15
Camouflage Costumes, Granaz Moussavi....................16
Untitled, Shams Langeroodi....................18
A Mob! Tumult!, Peyman Vahabzadeh....................19
My House Is Cloudy, Nima Yushij....................20
Blood's Voice, Mohsen Emadi....................24
If Rising from Your Grave, Naanaam....................25
Death from the Window, Naanaam....................26
Life, Naanaam....................27
The Sticky Dream of a Banished Butterfly (Excerpt), Maryam Hooleh....................29
Our Tears Are Sweet, Simin Behbahani....................30
I See the Sea ..., Shams Langeroodi....................32
TRANSLATING SILENCE....................35
Me, Granaz Moussavi....................36
The Poem, Mohsen Emadi....................41
From "23," Shams Langeroodi....................44
The Shah and Hosseinzadeh, Reza Baraheni....................45
Hosseinzadeh, the Head Executioner, Reza Baraheni....................47
Ass Poem, Reza Baraheni....................48
Depression, Yadollah Royai....................49
Petition, Nader Naderpour....................50
A List of Names, Partow Nooriala....................53
Nargess, Partow Nooriala....................54
Always the Same ..., Ahmad Shamlou....................56
I Did Not Expect, Ahmad Reza Ahmadi....................58
99 NAMES OF EXILE....................63
99 Names of Exile, Kaveh Bassiri....................64
Ghazal 2, Nader Naderpour....................65
Spring Story, Nader Naderpour....................67
Marco Polo, Ali Alizadeh....................70
Red-Raft Woman, Esther Kamkar....................71
Map of Ashen Roads, Sholeh Wolpé....................73
Memorial Day, Kaveh Bassiri....................75
Family of Scatterable Mines, Solmaz Sharif....................76
BLEEDING GREEN....................81
From Green to Green, Sohrab Sepehri....................82
The Green of Iran, Sholeh Wolpé....................84
Song of a Forbidden Woman, Granaz Moussavi....................86
At the Hamlet of Golestaneh, Sohrab Sepehri....................88
Summer Is a Green Story, Esther Kamkar....................90
A New Idea, Rumi....................91
Feminist, Maryam Ala Amjadi....................93
REBELLIOUS GOD....................99
Rebellious God, Forugh Farrokhzad....................101
Lovers!, Tahirih....................102
Return to the Wellspring, Jila Mossaed....................104
Criticizing the Veil, Iraj Mirza....................107
Collage Sixteen, Ziba Karbassi....................108
Martyrs of Iran, Roger Sedarat....................110
I Didn't Ask for My Parents, Sholeh Wolpé....................111
God's Poem, Nader Naderpour....................112
Fire; take a step ..., Sepideh Jodeyri....................113
Hezbollah, Sheema Kalbasi....................114
A Homily on Leaving, Nader Naderpour....................116
Religion, Amy Motlagh....................117
STEPPING THROUGH TIME....................121
The Art of Stepping through Time, H. E. Sayeh....................123
In Praise of Big Noses, Persis Karim....................125
Untitled, Peyman Vahabzadeh....................126
Those Who Stood Up for Tolerance, Hafez....................127
Rhyme by Rhyme, Tahirih....................128
Stay Light on Your Feet, Rumi....................129
Collage Eleven, Ziba Karbassi....................130
Collage Fourteen, Ziba Karbassi....................131
The Plumber's Poem, Zara Houshmand....................132
My Hands Tremble Yet Again—A Soliloquy, Sheida Mohammadi....................134
Hot Tea, a Warm Muffin, Shideh Etaat....................135
Mulberries and Chador, Farzaneh Milani....................136
Return from My Body's Black-and-Blue, Sheida Mohammadi....................137
Caravan, H. E. Sayeh....................140
Connection, Forugh Farrokhzad....................142
I Won't Quit Loving, Hafez....................143
Morning Star, Ziba Karbassi....................145
Twittering, Pegah Ahmadi....................147
Someone like No One, Forugh Farrokhzad....................151
Water, Sohrab Sepehri....................153

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