Sohrab Sepehri (Selected Poems) | Translated by Ali Salami

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Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980)

Sohrab Sepehri was born in Kashan on October 7, 1928; a very talented artist and a gifted poet, Sepehri shot to stardom with the publication of The Water’s Footfall which was subsequently followed by The Traveler and The Green Volume. Sepehri died of blood cancer in Tehran in 1980.

Sohrab Sepehri

Sepehri is so popular with the Iranians that he is usually known by his first name ‘Sohrab’ as if he is a friend everyone knows and understands. Sohrab traveled beyond the normal trajectory of everyday meanings. He translated speech into a language hitherto unknown to the Iranians. A pioneer poet, he utilized western forms and deconstructed the normal way of poetry. His use of new forms in poetry makes him complicated to understand. Yet, readers find themselves so attached to him and his poetry that there remains no room for boredom. Readers are so immersed in his poetry that they sometimes forget the world of realities and experience a fresh recognition of man and the whole universe.

Sohrab was the Child of Nature. Just like a child nestled in the bosom of his mother, Sohrab finds rest in the bosom of nature. He regards great respect for nature and whatever is relevant to it. He looks at Nature and the creatures within it in the manner of a lover who sees no faults in his beloved. He is a true worshipper who loves God and His creatures, believing that one has to plant the flower of love in his heart for the entire universe. To Sohrab, love is everything.

Well-versed in Buddhism, mysticism and western traditions, he mingled the western concepts with eastern ones, thereby creating a kind of poetry unsurpassed in the history of Persian literature. To him, new forms are new means to express his thoughts and feelings. His poetry is, indeed, like a journey. Every time you read him you understand him differently. There is a bottomless ocean of meanings in his poetry.

 

Sohrab takes us into a journey of an unknown world where ugly things become beautiful and despised objects become a center of attention to the readers.

 

I don’t know

Why a horse is a noble animal, and a dove is lovely

And why no one keeps a vulture.

I don’t know why a clover should be inferior to a red tulip.

We need to rinse our eyes, and view things differently.

We should wash our words

To be both wind and rain.

 

In his worldview, beauty is not an abstract concept; it is created and strengthened by people. He follows Shakespeare in that there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. Therefore, he invites us to wash our eyes and view the world differently. Sohrab left us a miracle of words and meanings.

 

Morning Glory

Past the border of my dream

The shadow of a morning glory

Had darkened all these ruins

What intrepid wind

Transported the morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?

 

Beyond glass gates of dream

In the bottomless marsh of mirrors

Wherever I had taken a piece of myself

A morning glory had sprouted

Forever pouring into the void of my soul

And in the sound of its blossoming

I was forever dying in myself

 

The veranda roof caves in

And the morning glory twines about all columns

What intrepid wind

Transports this morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?

 

The morning glory germinates

Its stem rising out of my transparent sleep

I was in a dream

Flood of wakefulness overflowed.

To the view of my dream ruins I opened eyes:

The morning glory had twined all about my life.

I was flowing in its veins

It rooted in me

It was all of me

What intrepid wind

Transported this morning glory seed to the land of my Nod?

Near A Distant Realm

There was a woman at the door

Standing with a body as ever

I approached her:

Her image flooded my eyes.

Speech turned into wings of passion and knowledge.

Shadow turned into sun.

 

I walk out in the sun

I was carried away by pleasing signs:

I went as far as childhood and sands

As far as delightful mistakes

As far as abstract objects

I neared picturesque waters

And trees full of pears

With an ever-present trunk

I breathed with the wet truth.

My feeling of wonder mingled with the tree.

I perceived I abutted on the throne of God

I felt a bit distraught.

Man goes to seek solace

When he feels crestfallen.

I did too.

 

I went as far as the table

The yogurt’s taste, the fresh green plants

There was bread to eat with a cup and saucer:

My throat pined for a goblet of vodka.

 

I returned:

The woman was there at the door

Standing with a body of deadly wounds.

An empty can

Kept paring away

The water’s throat.

The Flow Of Water

When knowledge

Still nestled by springs,

Man

Indulged himself in his azure philosophy

In the delicate indolence of a meadow.

His thoughts flew with the bird.

He breathed with trees.

He was submissive to the poppy’s conditions.

Intrepid meanings of the waters

Roared in the depths of his speech.

Man

Slept

In the text of the elements

And woke up

In dawning fear.

 

But sometimes

The strange music of growth

Echoed

In the frail joints of his joys

And dust settled

On his struggling knees.

Then

His creative fingers,

Idled and got lost

In precise geometrical grief.

The Old Tale of Night

O you lost in the stellar green wonders!

The fig of ignorance

Epitomizes the virgin rocks

The heart of water is pining

For the reflection of a garden

The everyday apple tastes of illusion in the mouth.

O old fear!

My fingers went numb when you came to me.

Tonight

My hands know no fear:

Tonight they pluck fruits

From the branches of myths.

Tonight

Each tree bears

As many leaves as my fears.

Audacious speech thawed in the burning meeting of eyes

O colorful beginnings!

Protect my eyes from the evil magic:

I am still

Dreaming of

Unknown nocturnal blessings.

I am still

Thirsting for

Wavy waters.

My buttons

Look like ancient magic words.

On the meadows

We had our last carnal feast before words began.

 

In this feast, the music of stars

Fell upon my ears from inside the potteries.

And my eyes reflected the swarms of migrating magicians.

O ancient mirror of narcissus in sorrow!

Ecstasy carried me away.

– To the realm of growth?

– Perhaps

 

Let us drink water of wisdom when we thirst for speech.

 

The pure modesty of speech

Flows under the strewn legacy of night:

Before syllables came into being,

The living had their resurrection.

From among the rivals

Arrogant speech cracked my jaws.

Then

I, wading knee-high

In pure vegetable silence,

Bathed my hands and face in the sight of objects.

Then, in another season,

My shoes got wet

With the word of dew

Then, I sat down on a rock

And listened to the pebbles migrating past my feet.

Then I perceived

That each branch

Escaped the season of my hands.

 

O counterfeit night!

My kerchief filled with unripe clusters of prudence.

 

From behind the wall of a deep sleep,

A bird flew out of intimate darkness

And took my kerchief away.

The first pebble of inspiration echoed under my feet.

My blood tenderly hosted the space.

My pulse swam over the elements.

 

O night…!

No, what am I saying?

The illumination of window warmed up the listener’s cold body,

My fingers traveled in the direction of love.

Beyond Presence

Tonight

Will journey

To the realm of words

In a strange dream.

The wind will murmur something.

An apple will fall,

Roll over the graceful earth

And traverse the distant home of night.

Illusions will cave in.

Eyes

Will see the sad vegetable mind.

Ivies will entwine to watch the grace of God.

Secrets will emerge.

The roots of piety will wither away.

The murmuring waters

Will give light

To the dark roads.

The mirror will understand with its heart.

 

Tonight

A friendly breeze

Will agitate roots of meanings.

Wonder will flap its wings.

 

Deep in the night, an insect

Will gnaw

At the green portion of solitude.

Morning will fall

Into the word of morning.

 

(Translated by Ali Salami)

 

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