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Five Poems from Modern Persian Poetry
By: Mahmud Kianush
Published by: The Rockingham Press 1996

Stone Bar


Copyright shall at all times remain vested in the Author. No part of the work shall be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the Author's express written consent.

Nima Youshij
Ahmad Shamloo
Forough Farrokhzad
Sohrab Sepehri
Mehdi Akhavan Saless


Nima Youshij (1895 - 1969)
My Heart of Steel


Leave me alone,

- Me, the babbler-

And do not take away my horse,

My saddle-cover and my provision,

Because a restive thought

Has drawn me out of my house.


I have returned from a land

Where no happiness is found.

I have seen lands

Which are the bases of vicious rebels

Who occupy themselves with massacres;

Lands, with spring planted in every corner,

Not flowers, but the wounds of men slain.


On my way, I thought in vain

That any traveller could pass

Through this desert of death

If he had a heart of steel

And could nonchalantly observe good and evil,

Taking all problems easily,

Knowing this world

As the place of hatred and murder,

The place of destruction and wretchedness.


But now I see that my return,

With all the wisdom I put to use,

Has been to the same desert of death,

And the horrible nightmares which have been

My memories from my journey

And still alive before my eyes,

Burning my existence

In their annihilating fire.


For me, a ruined man of travel,

There is not a moment of time to stay;

Now I am more plundered than anyone else;

I have lost whatever I had,

My heart of steel is no longer with me;

I was nothing but my heart,

And now I see

That my heart of steel is left behind on the way;

There is no doubt

That my heart has been thrown

By those malicious people

Into the arms of a spring

Whose flowers, as I said,

Are of blood and wounds.

And now I am thinking that my heart of steel

Would change,

Rusting in the blood of my brothers

So innocently, so unjustly slain.


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Ahmad Shamloo [A. Bamdad] (b. 1925)
The Garden of Mirror


With a lamp in my hand,

and a lamp shining ahead,

I am on my way

to fight against darkness.


The cradles of weariness

have stopped swaying,

And in the depths a sun

lightens the burnt-out galaxies.


The riotous cries of lightning,

When the hailstones take form

in the restless wombs of clouds;

And the silent pain of the vine

When the baby grapes appear

at the top of long, winding branches:


My cry was all an escape from pain,

Because, in the most horrible nights,

I have been seeking the sun

with a hopeless prayer.


You have come from the suns,

from the dawns.


In a void where there was neither a God,

nor fire,

I have been seeking your glances

and your trust

with a hopeless prayer.


A vital current

Between two deaths

In the emptiness between two solitudes:

Your trust is something like this!


Your joy is ruthless and noble,

Your breaths in my empty hands

are songs and grass.

I rise !

A lamp in my hand, a lamp in my heart.

I polish my rusty soul.

I set a mirror opposite yours

To make your image infinite.


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Forough Farrokhzad (1933-1967)
Red Rose


Red rose,

Red rose,

Red rose:

He took me to the rose garden,

And in darkness, he threaded

a red rose in my ruffled hair,

And made love with me

On a red rose petal.


O paralysed pigeons,

O native, infertile trees,

O blind windows,

Below my heart and deep inside my loins

A red rose has begun to grow,

A red rose,

Red as the flags of revolution.


Ah! I am pregnant, pregnant,

I am pregnant.


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Sohrab Sepehri (1928 - 1980)
The Motion of the Word Life


Beyond the pinewood, snow;

Snow, and a flock of crows.

The road means emigration;

Wind, sounds traveller,

and feeling like having some sleep.

Ivy foliage, arrival, and

stepping into the backyard.


I and my gloomy heart,

and these wet windowpanes.

I am writing, and two walls,

and several sparrows.


Someone is sad;

Someone is weaving;

Someone is counting;

Someone is singing.


Life means a starling took wing.

What has made you unhappy?

Pleasant things are not scarce;

for instance, the sun

that shines there;

The child of the day-after-tomorrow;

Or the pigeons of last week.


Drops of water falling;

Snow lying on the shoulder of silence;

And time on the spine

of the white jasmine.


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Mehdi Akhavan Saless [ M. Omid] (1928 - 1990)
Up There


At the lunch table

I was positioning myself as usual

With one or two goblets

Of my stinging, deadly booze,

Taking as nibbles

The bitter, burning lip-biting

Of one who,

with all the world,

Still feels alone.


The little boy,

- my son -

Has gone up there,

In the nook above two rows of bookshelves,

With his hands stretched on both sides,

Leaning on his elbows,

His palms open,

His legs hanging down,

And his head lifted up,

Like a cross made of rough wood,

Or, if I must avoid a rough similization,

Perhaps like a crucified man.


"Come down, Zardosht," said his sister, (1)

"Its time to go to bed;

"Come down, I'm sleepy!"

"I won't come down,"

said the Zardosht of the cross;

I told him, or I should have told him,

"You come down, son!

"Your father must sleep up there!"

Or perhaps,

"Up there your father is asleep!"

(1) In the poem, Zardosht is the name of the poet's son but, as he is drunk and lonely, the poet sees the image of Zardosht (Zoroaster or Zarathustra), founder of the Zoroastrian religion, mixed with images of Jesus Christ on the cross. Though he never denied being a Moslem, Akhavan Saless was deeply interested in ancient Persian civilisation and its religions.

"Modern Persian Poetry"
(An anthology in English)

Modern Persian poetry
Click to purchase the book.



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