Friends Are Knocking at the Door

Tahirih
Persian
1814 – 1852

 

Gatekeeper! Friends are knocking at the door.
Open the door! Why not open the door?

What is so wrong with letting them come in?
Why must they wait in the dark corridor?

How long do you think they can be patient?
How long should they stay there and pace the floor?

At least, why don’t you raise the window curtain?
Just peak out for once to show your face.

They want nothing from you, except yourself.
The only thing they beg for is your grace.

Outside they got drunk on love — then sober.
They didn’t care. They’re longing for your place.

They dropped their veils, forgot their desires,
gave up this search, and stripped to nudity.

Burn off the clouds now and show us the sun.
Pull off the veil. Let us see your beauty:

So then the wise would be struck dumb,
And the fools will find their wisdom:

The selfish know their true Self then,
the saints will all get drunk with them:

No servant and no Lord will be,
master and slave as one will be.

From the Garden of Heaven

We present this work in honor of Hafez Day.

Hafez
Persian
1326 – 1389

 

From the garden of Heaven a western breeze
Blows through the leaves of my garden of earth;
With a love like a huri I’ld take mine ease,
And wine! bring me wine, the giver of mirth!
To-day the beggar may boast him a king,
His banqueting-hall is the ripening field,
And his tent the shadow that soft clouds fling.

A tale of April the meadows unfold—
Ah, foolish for future credit to slave,
And to leave the cash of the present untold!
Build a fort with wine where thy heart may brave
The assault of the world; when thy fortress falls,
The relentless victor shall knead from thy dust
The bricks that repair its crumbling walls.

Trust not the word of that foe in the fight!
Shall the lamp of the synagogue lend its flame
To set thy monastic torches alight?
Drunken am I, yet place not my name
In the Book of Doom, nor pass judgment on it;
Who knows what the secret finger of Fate
Upon his own white forehead has writ!

And when the spirit of Hafiz has fled,
Follow his bier with a tribute of sighs;
Though the ocean of sin has closed o’er his head,
He may find a place in God’s Paradise.

The Inscription

We present this work in honor of the 30th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Mehdi Akhavan-Sales
Persian
1929 – 1990

 

The stone lay there like a mountain
and we sat here a weary bunch
women, men, young, old
all linked together
at the ankles, by a chain.
You could crawl to whomever your heart desired
as far as you could drag your chain.
We did not know, nor did we ask
was it a voice in our nightmare and weariness
or else, a herald from an unknown corner,
it spoke:
“The stone lying there holds a secret
inscribed on it by wise men of old.”
Thus spoke the voice over and again
and, as a wave recoiling on itself
retreated in the dark
and we said nothing
and for some time we said nothing.
Afterwards, only in our looks
many doubts and queries spoke out
then nothing but the ambush of weariness, oblivion
and silence, even in our looks
and the stone lying there.
One night, moonlight pouring damnation on us
and our swollen feet itching
one of us, whose chain was the heaviest
damned his ears and groaned: “I must go”
and we said, fatigued: “Damn our ears
damn our eyes, we must go.”
and we crawled up to where the stone lay one of us, whose chain was looser

climbed up and read:
“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”
With a singular joy we repeated this dusty secret
under our breath as if it were a prayer
and the night was a glorious stream filled with moonlight.
One… two… three… heave-ho!
One… two… three… once more!
sweating sad, cursing, at times even crying
again…one…two…three…thus many times
hard was our task, sweet our victory
tired but happy, we felt a familiar joy
soaring with delight and ecstasy.
One of us, whose chain was lighter
saluted all, then climbed the stone
wiped the dirt-caked inscription and mouthed the words
(we were impatient)
wetted his lips (and we did the same)
and remained silent
cast a glance at us and remained silent
read again, his eyes fixed, his tongue dead
his gaze drifting over a far away unknown

we yelled to him”
“Read!” he was speechless
“Read it to us!” he stared at us in silence
after a time
he climbed down, his chain clanking
we held him up, lifeless as he was
we sat him down
he cursed our hands and his
“What did you read? huh?”
He swallowed and said faintly:
“The same was written:
“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”
We sat
and
stared at the moon and the bright night
and the night was a sickly stream.

On Love

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 1040th birthday.

Abu Ali, the Mathematician
Persian
980 – 1037

 

I never knew a sprightly fair
That was not dear to me;
And freely I my heart could share
With every one I see.

It is not this or that alone
On whom my choice would fall:
I do not more incline to one
Than I incline to all.

The circle’s bounding line are they;
Its centre is my heart;
My ready love, the equal ray
That flows to every part.

Home

We present this work in honor of Eid-al-Adha.

Leila Kasra
Persian
1939 – 1989

 

Still, on the boughs of the trees, there are only crows
Ah, The flowers are withered
There is a madman in the garden
My heart is like a goblet of fire
My body is like a stove (burns so bad)
But there is not even a light in the whole world
There is not even a light, there is not even a light

I came from the other side of the world to this place
Don’t tell me the world is beautiful, I don’t see that
Still, there is sorrow in my heart, it is a strong torment
Don’t tell me not to cry
Don’t tell me life is short

Which nocturnal mourn? Which nightly summon?
Which spell and magic? Which romantic prayer?
From this side of the world to that side of the world
Would lead me to my home, would lead me to my beloved
Would lead me to my beloved, would lead me to my beloved

Which way? Which road?
Which tear? Which moan?
Which cloud and which zenith?
Which tide and which moon?
From this side of the world to that side of the world
Would lead me to my home, would lead me to my beloved

Still, caravan of love doesn’t reach its destination
We are drowned and our voice doesn’t reach the shore
Doesn’t reach the shore

Still, there are tears in my eyes
My stare is at the road (waiting for the beloved one)
There is no sun, no moon
How dark is the world! How dark is the world!

Which way? Which road?
Which tear? Which moan?
Which cloud and which zenith?
Which tide and which moon?
From this side of the world to that side of the world
Would lead me to my home, would lead me to my beloved

Cheetah

Abū Nuwās
Persian
756 – 814

 

I move through black cloud night—
Dark, at war with Dawn,
Quivers with a fine blade’s sheen—
With a vigorous, widejaw cheetah
Thickneck, spine-welded-scapulae
Leanbelly in taut-twist well-rope body
Cheek-folds plump in a scowl,
Sheeny; black teardrops on masseters
Bactrian lungs in saffron ribcage
Heavy paws, bull neck, sudden dart
A lion but for the spotty coat
Alert for shapes that shift.

A long search sights two herds
On ground flat as a man’s brow
He’s off, a slow stalk,
A trap about to explode
Puff adder slither
Through ground high and low
Face to face with his prey now—
Havoc! He scatters them across the desert
Full stretch, full pelt
Greedy fury.

Why hunt with any creature but a cheetah?

Alas for Youth

Ferdowsi
Persian
935 – 1020

 

Much have I labored, much read o’er
Of Arabic and Persian lore,
Collecting tales unknown and known;
Now two and sixty years are flown.
Regret, and deeper woe of sin,
‘Tis all that youth has ended in,
And I with mournful thoughts rehearse
Bu Táhir Khusrawáni’s verse:
“I mind me of my youth and sigh,
Alas for youth, for youth gone by!”

Stranger

We present this work in honor of Eid al-Fitr.

Tahereh Saffarzadeh
Persian
1936 – 2008

 

I am a pantheon of feelings,
and I will not hold you–Snowdrift of lies–
I fear you will turn to ice the memories I cherish,
remember of humanity.
I am that lonely one who understands,
the agony of loneliness,
the silence of the tolerant,
the wrath of the inflamed.
But I never understand you,
—all insouciance and silly cheer.