Poetry at Sangam



Blood’s Voice by Mohsen Emadi

Translated from Persian by Sholeh Wolpé
If one day flood brings in a sad panther,
and a shrine’s door,
if they sew up a shirt with the panther’s skin,
make a necklace with his teeth,
I know that whoever puts on the shirt
will disappear,
and whoever wears the necklace
would be obliged to carry
her own head under her arms.
I take the shrine’s door
install it on the threshold
of my house. It creaks open
to a circle of women,
heads on knees,
caressing their own hair.
Outside, body-less heads
surround a fire with songs.
I don’t recognize my own voice
and grunt my words,
the door opening
and closing to its rhythm.
It is raining.
A unclothed woman knocks on the door.
She carries a boat on her back.
I greet her between the panther’s roar
and the door’s groans.
Silently she unloads her boat in a corner,
climbs in and falls asleep.
The house is in water.
Water carries away corpses of women,
it carries away the door,
and my voice.
We paddle.
We row looking for the voice.
My legacy is a door through which
when a woman enters or leaves
my voice cracks,
and the house drowns in that alien sound.
Each time my bed is a boat
to attract the nudity of a woman.
A women’s nakedness is silent.
It is wet.
I uproot the door,
plant it on my rooftop.
The wind blows.
Guns appear on the threshold of the door.
They point themselves at my throat.
The wind blows
and a thousand wounded panthers
leap out from my mouth.
I am naked.
A unclothed woman,
draws herself out from among the guns,
kisses the door,
kneels before me.
Panthers bound out from her hair.
I caress your hair.
The door will shut,
voices and winds will pound on the door.
I will not open.
And the lost voice of the man
will become blood,
will flood through the cracks
and mingling with the rain
that shall come pouring,
it will flow through the city’s gutters and veins.
I kiss you
and my blood leaps out with every breath,
out from my throat.
It becomes my voice.
You are silent.
You speak inside me.
There’s no one on the rooftop.
I stand there, collect all the photographs
the shirts, the photos of a thousand hands holding guns,
the portraits of women’s heads
and the narrow stream of blood
that flows on the paper’s edge.
I light a match,
throw into fire the shirts and the papers.
The fire has your shape.
I want to touch your hair.
I reach for you
and become a poet.
I pick up my pen
and blood flows from my hand.
The lines are your hair,
in every line a panther roars.
On the balcony
I fill my childhood cradle with soil,
plant roses inside it.
I water the roses.
I rock the cradle.
The city is silent.
(From The Forbidden, Poems from Iran and Its Exiles, Edited by Sholeh Wolpé, Michigan State University Press, 2012)
←Mohsen Emadi