from Ismael

(A Long Poem)

Reza Baraheni

Dedicated to the tainted memory of my friend Ismael Shahroudi (Ayandeh) [Future] who died in the fall of 1981 in Tehran.
Ismael Shahroudi (1924–1981)



I swear to your red eyes my dear Ismael
That the sun, one day, will shine better than the day you died
I swear to your white hair that was also red for a while
That the sun one day, that the sun one day, that the sun one day
Will shine better than the day you died



Oh you acquaintance of mine in the purple gardens of madness and kisses!
Oh you lying on the spring bed of Mehregan Hospital!
Oh penniless freedom singer standing on the stairs of mercy
Oh lonely tears entrusted to the breeze of the asylum!
Oh more poetist than your poems and our poems!
Oh you devastated in the university, in schools, in cafes, in bars
And in the affections of your wife and child and ungrateful friends like us!
Oh you hopeful that one day Stalin would rise in Churchill Street
And your comrades would send you to Moscow for treatment of your piss
               retention!
Oh eternal paradox! Lover of Stalin, De Gaulle, Al-e Ahmad, Hushi Mine,
               a woman with light-colored eyes, and Siavash Kasraii, all together!
Oh you who in the asylums of Tehran dreamed of hospitals at the beaches
               of Crimea!
Oh you who wanted to send your son to the Soviet Union but instead sent him
               to the US!
Oh you who, in your rented apartment in Amir Abad, dreamed of the Lenin
               Prize!
From the expensive stairs of the private asylum that siphoned off your pension,
You called out for freedom!
And imagined that B. is of Castro’s cloth and K. of Lenin’s canvas!
Oh eternal paradox! Whose soul’s simplicity exceeded all your beliefs’
               complexity,
And your simplicity was a beehive that seemed to have just one queen, whose
               other bees were not there!
Oh you like an orchard of walnut trees in the mind of the simple children
               of poetry!
Oh Ismael!
Oh you standing in line for the city’s medical labs, a tall glass container in your
               hand, and a jungle of colorful images in your head!
Oh you sleepwalker of the east and the west!
Oh you the betrayed!
Oh you memory-less after sessions of electric shock!
Oh you fasting of love!
Oh you acquaintance of mine in the purple gardens of madness and kisses!

 

The half-black half-brown buttons of your swollen breasts smell like kissing
Your two naked shoulders look like two one-eyed ghouls observing the world
               through dead skin
You watch
You cannot speak, instead of speaking you kiss
Do not get up, from your bed, do not get up, Ismael! Whenever you speak, I
               break into tears wondering why you cannot speak

 

Oh late spring of words over a tainted flower garden of a depressed mouth, Oh
               Ismael do not get up from your bed!

 

Oh you the same age as the King, the contemporary of oppression, the citizen
               of torture!
Oh wandering sparrow in rented houses!
Oh true son of both Ibrahim and Nima
Oh homeless, Oh skyless, Oh roofless, Oh earthless!
Oh empty-handed shadow-dweller of this heavy-hearted era
Oh poet of a hand-to-mouth generation
Where is your grave so that aided by love I can drag you out of its depth?
Oh Ismael! Oh my brother, do not get up from your bed!
Your memory is the breakfast I ate on the first day of the Revolution
The memory of your death
Is the water from the ablution I gave the filled-with-holes martyr of the Revolution
Do not get up from your bed!
Oh you who have forgotten words both one by one and in groups,
For God’s sake, do not get up from your bed!
—Like a sky that forgets its birds in regiments
Like a night that forgets its stars—
Do not get up from your bed!

 

Oh wounded father of the wailing birds of the sky of Iran!
Oh young poetry reciter of thirty years ago for laborers!
When you should have gotten their autographs because they understood
               your poem
Because there was a poem that laborers too could understand—
Oh exiled from the burnt shoulder of the desert to the whorehouse of Tehran!
Tehran turned you, before you died, into an anonymous grave
Do not get up from your bed,
But do tell me: where is your grave so I can shower it with a silken cloth of
               words!
Death to the poet who does not know the secret of the trench and of the star!
Long live you who knew this secret!
And through a white breast upon which slept a host of angels
You fed the oblique eyes of the virgin deer with milk

 

Oh hidden from the eyes of the mateless me!
Oh the only man madly obsessed with Hamlet’s Ophelia!
Oh drowned in silent lagoons, in autumn leaves, in deserted peninsulas, in
               fallen avalanches, in salt lakes, in balding hills, in bird nests, in starless
               skies, in orbitless suns, in terraces overlooking emptiness, in alleys
               devoid of the lover’s steps!
Aided by love, I will drag you out of the grave!

 

Death to the poet who does not know the secret of the spear and of the blood!
Long live you who also knew the secret of the trench and of the star!
               [The first time I saw you, I lost you; I saw you once again, I lost you
               once again; when I found you, you were insane. You read poems,
               poems, poems; you read the poems again and again, and with a sharp
               long scissor, you looked for the throat of a ghoul. It was never clear
               why you wanted to knife at a “dream.” Perhaps you wanted to know
               what a “dream” meant. And once, you told a “whore,” Please move on
               madam, I am not that kind of a man. And once too you wanted to be
               shot from the muzzle of a cannon, since a woman who had committed
               suicide was dragged out of a motel and the rain was pouring over her
               face and you kept saying, “Don’t die! Don’t die!” And the woman? She
               had already died hours before. And then you introduced me to the
               other patients at the asylum. You sent Simin Daneshvar and me to ask
               for the hand of a woman with light-colored eyes whom you had fallen
               in love with in the asylum. Saedi asked, “Two insane ones? And then
               what?” As if we were all sane! —And that night oh pioneer of the poets
               of the world’s aphasia!—what did you whisper in the ears of the woman
               with the light-colored eyes? The baffled admirer was looking at your
               red hair. Is she alive so that I can ask after the amorousness of your
               face from the color of her gaze? And once too you said Zohari was a
               good guy and someone asked, “Is he a good poet too?” and you began
               hiccupping and I lost you once again, found you once again. Were you
               tubercular? Were you insane? Had you had a stroke? You had returned
               from India. And you and I and my daughter and your son went to
               Darband, or Darakeh, and we took pictures together. The pictures are
               depressed Ismael! It is as if the eyes of time have cried over them!
               They are posthumous pictures Ismael! As if they are pictures in the
               hands of mothers with dead sons. Aided by love, I will drag you out of
               the grave! Aided by love, I will drag you out of the grave! Aided by love,
               I will drag you of the grave!]
 

 
Death to the poet who does not know the secret of love and of death!
Long live you who also knew the secret of the spear and of the blood!

translated from the Persian by Poupeh Missaghi