The Street Before You Leave Tehran

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 45th birthday.

Rosa Jamali
Persian
b. 1977

 

Facing the airport, all that’s now left in my grasp
is a crumpled land
that fits in the palm of my hand.

Facing wavering sunbeams—
a sun that is angry and mute.
All the way from the salt sands of Dasht-e Lut,
it came, the dream
that forced my fingers’ shift,
that set my teeth on edge.
A muted breeze,
whirlwind spun from sand dunes
all the way, even through the back alley.

Are you pasting together the cut-up fragments of my face to make me laugh?

No longer than the palm of the hand, a short leap,
exactly the length you had predicted.

A huge grave in which to lay the longest night of the year to sleep.

Sleep has quit our eyelids for other pastures,
has dropped its anchor at the shores of garden ponds,
has lost the chapped flaking of its lips,
poor thing.
Are you pasting together the cut-up fragments of my face to make me laugh?

With scissors – snip, snip – they are severing something.
The alphabet shavings strewn on the ground,
are they the letters that spell our family name?

With every zig-zag,
you cage my mother’s breath,
her footprints fading
in the shifting sands.

Are you pasting together the cut-up fragments of my face to make me laugh?
No.
A strange land-shape forms.
I will not return.
I left behind a shoe, one of a pair,
for you to put on and follow after me.

Translation by Franklin Lewis

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