Poetry at Sangam



Earthly Verses by Forugh Farrokhzad

Translated from Persian by Sholeh Wolpé
the sun grew cold
and the earth became barren.
The grass withered in the meadows
and the fish withered in the sea
and the earth no longer
welcomed the dead.
The night, like a strange specter
gathered and swelled in the pallid windows,
and the roads released themselves
into the dark.
No one dreamed of love anymore.
No one dreamed of beginnings.
No one dreamed of anything anymore.
In the caves of loneliness
futility was born.
Blood reeked of henbane and opium.
Women birthed headless infants
and cradles hid in graves from shame.
What bitter, black days…
the powers of prophetic mission
defeated by bread.
The prophets, now fallen and hungry,
fled the promised holy land,
and in the sad, mute fields
Christ’s lost lambs no longer heard
the hey-hey of their shepherd.
The mirrors’ eyes reflected movements,
colors, and shapes upside down,
and above the heads of wicked clowns
and the whores’ insolent faces,
burned a holy, bright halo
like an umbrella on fire.
Alcohol swamps reeking poisonous fumes
sucked into their abyss mobs of idle intellectuals,
and inside antique cabinets
sly rats gnawed the gilt leaves of books.
The sun was dead.
The sun was dead and “tomorrow”
was a queer ancient word meaning nothing
to children. In their notebooks they drew it
as an inky black smudge.
a fallen people,
dead-of-heart, dazed and lonely,
beneath the sinister burden of their own corpses
wandered from exile to exile,
the aching lust for crime swelling in their hands.
Sometimes a spark, one flicker,
imploded their listless, silent society,
and they attacked each other—
men slitting other men’s throats
and bedding little girls
on bloodied sheets.
They drowned in their own horror,
and fear of terrible sin paralyzed
their blind and witless souls.
In the execution fields
when the strain of the hangman’s rope
bulged from their sockets the terrified eyes of a condemned,
they watched and sank into themselves,
their old and tired nerves throbbing with lust.
But one could always find
petty criminals standing at a plaza’s edge
staring at a fountain’s water, its ceaseless flow.
something half-alive still stirred
behind those crushed eyes,
in their hardened depths,
languidly struggling to believe
in the purity of the water’s song.
Perhaps. But what an endless emptiness.
The sun was dead and no one knew
the grieved dove who had abandoned all hearts
was faith.
Captive voice,
will your despair’s splendor
never plow a passage to light
through the thick of this detested night?
Captive voice,
           last of the last voices…
(From Sin—Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, edited and translated by Sholeh Wolpé, University of Arkansas Press, 2007)
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