Three Poems

Negar Emrani


They took Abbas and put the White Stone Encampment on his shoulders.
First, the world was small.
Then, we grew taller into trees,
spread and became the forest.

War was not fair.
It was demolition of a wall standing between the orange tree and us.
It came home with the rain as if it was plague.
It came home with an armful of bread and salt.

I cried for Abbas who I didn’t know,
for his wife who I didn’t know either,
for war,
for myself, I cried.

War was Abbas.
War was me.
War was you hiding your voice inside a flute.
They brought you with wrath in your smile and a red wool hat.
Like a matchstick lit in the snow
or a woodpecker inside my chest,
you were a brand new feeling.
I named you to own you.

Without any wounds on your shoulders, you were carrying the pain.
We were heirs to a great spite—the gun’s throat called
to exterminate its own generation.

Targeting a soldier’s face, the gun
sprinkled blood oranges on the soil.

I wish you could have turned the city back into the fatherland,
and my face back into the mirror.

Your kindness was a flame to light my cigarette—
nobody knew you except the tag around your neck.

Somewhere Between the World and the Mirror

Somewhere between the world and the mirror
three women sanctify the day.
One, from my collar, greets the sun.
Another, inside my eyes, becomes the night.
That last one is me.
Holding an umbrella,
I walk inside my memories.
Holding a shadow inside my fist
I run but never reach myself.
The smell of dry dust clings to me,
the smell of granny’s perfume and globe amaranths.
Mankind has many hearts
with many blood types:
Razieh, Maryam, Negar.
They traverse our history
and get lost somewhere in love,
in a giant sunflower
which turns and turns until its face grows dark.
Somewhere between “I love you” and “but”
is mankind, a giant loneliness strolling
through an even greater loneliness.

A Prophet

I dreamt of rainy grounds,
of a woman who was spreading her hair in the light
so birds could pick grain from it.

I dreamt of dandelions that had nothing to say to the wind.
I dreamt of a one-winged ladybug stitching ground to sky.

Drought was upon us, and my mother was becoming a corner of the room,
gathering rain in her eyes.

Some woman comes out of the mirror every day,
and she’s getting closer.

One day towards her birthday,
one day towards her death.

Some woman inside my left fist, at my breasts’ ridge, among my wet hair—
she comes out, and all that remains of her
are her footprints on my forehead.

Some woman, whose hair is poverty itself,
stretches inside my arms towards tomorrow.

I never learned which rotten tooth gave me my smile.
I’ve been hiding the sorrow amongst the pistachios, year by year.

Death is close.
Sitting, I’m watching the sunset.

One day a tree will rise like a prophet out of my body,
a prophet with no miracles.
All he’ll be able to do:
separate the wind into two parts.

translated from the Persian by Kaveh Akbar