contemporary poet

Hafez Mousavi


These Lines

I'm writing these lines for you,
reveal not even one word in it
to anybody
after composing this poem
I will throw the key
into the ocean. 

We have little chance
and this narrow paths
will lead us nowhere.

I know an unknown path
but I have little chance to write
and eyes which grudge to see us
are watching us.

We have little chance;
let's meet


Upon the Wing of a Butterfly

You will sleep upon the wing of a butterfly
and will move away
so far 
that you can't hear
the beating of your heart.

The butterfly
will sit
on something soft as a flower
or on a piece of imagination

and then
you will easily 
go into 
you go easily
into sleep...You will sleep upon


In Subsequent Sentences

In subsequent sentences of this poem,
a child
emerges on concrete stairs,
he remembers the running of the rabbits,
the short flights of partridge;
he remembers the wind,
and the color of olive groves:
green, leaden, silvery,
green, leaden, silvery,
"stop the car beside this jungle,
after rain the air
is delicious to eat!"

(the child has not appeared,
how untimely
has this colorful rope
fallen from the sky!).

His hands are still wet,
he remembers 
the walnut trees
in a rainy day,
with several non-plucked nuts
on distant branches...

In former lines of this poem
a child
is sitting on the concrete stairs
who doesn't understand the anxiety of his eyes.
They bring the horse,
they mount a man on the horse
- the child sees these things -
in an early morning
- this is seen by the man -

He is sitting on concrete stairs,
the yellow morning ends.
They return the horse without the man
and the anxiety of the eyes 
are conceivable.

The non-plucked nuts fall from the tree.

in the subsequent sentences of this poem
a child walks to the street
(it is clear that the sentence "it finishes early in the morning" wasn't correct)
and a horse without rider
neighs in the street and
casts away dust
from his mane
into the wind
and trots away.

The child
escapes the horse without rider,
and follows his unfinished plays
in pubs and streets.

Translated by M. Alexandrian

Zhaleh Esfahani

Zhaleh Esfahani, also known as "Zhaleh Soltani" and "Zhaleh;" was born in 1921, in Esfahan, Iran. She left Iran in 1947 and lived in the former Soviet Union until her return to Iran in 1979, after the Revolution. She lived in London until her death on 29th November 2007.

Can't Keep Quiet

"But what am I?
Only a captive,
chained to the earth.
In silence I grow old,
In silence I wither and die,
And before long
nothing will remain of me
But a handful of ashes."

Forest and River

"I wish I were like you,"

Said the forest

to the roaring river,

"Always travelling,

always sightseeing;

Rushing towards the pure domain

of the sea,

The kingdom of water;


The passionate, vigorous spirit

of life,

The liquid turquoise of light

With eternal flow ..."


"But what am I?

Only a captive,

chained to the earth.

In silence I grow old,

In silence I wither and die,

And before long

nothing will remain of me

But a handful of ashes."


"O forest, half-asleep, half-awake",

Cried the river,

"I wish I were you,

Enjoying a seclusion

of living emerald,

And illuminated by moonlit nights;

Being a mirror

reflecting the beauties

of Spring;

A shaded rendezvous for lovers."


"Your destiny, a new life

every year;

My life, running away from myself

all the time;

Running. running, running

in bewilderment;

And what is my gain

Of all this meaningless journey?

Ah ... never having a moment of calm

and rest!"


"No one can ever know

what the other feels;

Who does care to ask

about a passer-by

If he really existed

or was only a shadow?"


Now a passer-by

Aimlessly walking in the shade

Comes to ask himself,

"Who am I? a river? a forest?

Or both?

River and forest?

River and forest!"


Shahnaz A'lami

Shahnaz A'lami was born in Esfahan. In 1954, one year after the Shah's coup d'etat and the overthrow of Mosaddegh's government, she left Iran and resided for many years in former East Germany. Berlin was her final home until her death in December 2003. Among her many and varied cultural roles, she ran an Iranian School, where pupils are taught Persian language and culture.

Magic Suitecase

I took with me a suitcase,

light, very light,

Two or three sets of baby clothes,

A white georgette dress,

An indistinct photograph of my mother,

wearing a headdress,

And a complete list of traditional things

for the Noe-Rooz's celebrations, (1)

Lest a single thing should be forgotten;

These were what I had,

or rather, people thought I had,

in my suitcase

With which I left the land

of the generous sun.

My suitcase was,

or rather, people thought it was,

very, very light;

But what a big mistake!

You must have seen the shows

of professional magicians;

They put their fingers

up their sleeves,

And take out whatever you may name:

Birds, rabbits, kerchiefs of all colours,

Sometimes a crystal jug,

Sometimes a piece of stone,

Fire, water, soil,

Flowers, thorns and many other things;

So was my empty magic suitcase.


Now it has been almost a lifetime

That from inside the same suitcase

I have been taking out anything I want:

Wonderful springs of Isfahan

And its exhilarating groves

in the outskirts;

The colourful autumn of Shiraz

And the fragrance of its orange trees;

The ancient ruins of Persepolis; (2)

The Baghestan Mountain

with its historical inscriptions;

The Palace of Princess Shirin;

The poor village of Cham in Na'in; (3)

The tattered dress of Fatima,

a peasant little girl,

And a flock of other children like her,

Who are all in the same suitcase.


I take them out;

I sit and talk with them;

I live with them;

And the moment someone appears,

They all run back into the suitcase,

The very suitcase which people think

must be very light

and almost empty.


When I make my will

I will ask for my suitcase

to be buried with me.

No doubt they will say:

"Her life was madness;

And her will is foolish!

What sort of will is that!

Who needs a suitcase

in the other world?"


Let them say whatever they like;

After all,

who does know the secret

of the professional magician of love?


Is it not true that love

is the astrolabe of God's mysteries? (4)


(1) Noe-Rooz, or NowRuz, the Persian New Year's Day (21 March in the Western calendar) is followed by twelve days of celebrations and visiting relatives and friends.

(2) Persepolis was the ceremonial capital of Darius, Xerxes and other kings of the Archaemenid period. Baghestan Mountain, near Kermanshah in western Iran, has on its face a bas-relief depicting Darius I, with captive chiefs and a record of his reign. In the same province was the palace of Shirin, an Armenian princess who is said to have been the wife of khosrow Parviz (521 - 628), one of the greatest kings of the Sassanid period.

(3) Cham is a village near the town of Na'in, famous for its carpets.

(4) The words in italics are part of a famous couplet from the "Masnavi" of Jalal-od-Din Rumi, one of the greatest Persian Mystic or Sufi poets, who is also known as Mowlavi. He lived a good part of his life in Konya in Turkey, where his tomb is a shrine for a dervish sect known as "Mowlaviyyeh".



Parvin E'tesami

Parvin E'tesami was born in 1907 in Tabriz, Iran. Her formative years were spent in Tehran where her family had moved and where she lived an extraordinarily simple and tranquil life close to her father, Yusif E'tesami (E'tesam al-Mulk). Here she gained her knowledge of the Arabic language and a solid grounding in Arabic and Persian literatures. Reportedly, she started composing poetry when she was eight years old.

Within the second decade of her life (1920), E'tesam al-Mulk founded a literary magazine called "Bahar" to which Parvin contributed regularly. In fact, in the long run, this magazine became a main vehicle for the promotion of her literary talent in a male-dominated society. Parvin's themes of humanism and liberalism struck a special cord with her audiences.

E'tesam al-Mulk, however, was not satisfied with the amount of knowledge that his daughter had gained from his personal instruction. Neither was he satisfied with the traditional curricula offered at the public and private schools in Tehran. Eventually, he entered Parvin in the American College for Girls where she learned English and became familiar, first-hand, with the cultures of the West. Parvin graduated from the American College for Girls in 1925. Then, after a short stint as instructor at the College, she decided to return to her family and devote her entire time to composing poetry.

Parvin was an unassuming young woman; some argue, correctly, that she was an exemplary Muslim woman. But that distinction, in no way, meant an easy young woman to deal with, especially when such germane principles as justice and fair play were involved. Parvin declined to tutor the queen in 1926 because of the high degree of blame that she attributed to the person of the sovereign, the queen's husband; and, in 1936, she refused to accept a third-rate medal offered her for contribution to Persian literature by the Ministry of Culture. That medal, she said, was motivated by the exploitative interests of those offering it rather than by a genuine appreciation of her poetry.


Iranian Women

Formerly a woman in Iran was almost non-Iranian.
All she did was struggle through dark and distressing days.

Her life she spent in isolation; she died in isolation.
What was she then if not a prisoner?

None ever lived centuries in darkness like her.
None was sacrificed on the altar of hypocrisy like her.

In the courts of justice no witness defended her.
To the school of learning she was not admitted.

All her life her cries for justice remained unheeded.
This oppression occurred publicly; it was no secret.

Many men appeared disguised as her shepherd.
Within each a wolf was hiding instead.

In life's vast arena such was woman's destiny:
to be pushed and shoved into a corner.

The light of knowledge was kept from her eyes.
Her ignorance could not be laid to inferiority or sluggishness.

Could a woman weave with no spindle or thread?
Can anyone be a farmer with nothing to sow or to reap?

The field of knowledge yielded abundant fruit,
but women never had any share in this abundance.

A woman lived in a cage and died in a cage.
The name of this bird in the rose garden was never mentioned.

Imitation is the desert of women's perdition, the pitfall causing her troubles.

Clever is that woman who never treads that murky road

Beauty depends on knowledge; bracelets of emerald
or Badakhshan rubies do not indicate superiority.

All glamour of painted silks cannot match the simple beauty of a tunic.
Honor depends on merit, not on indulgence in vanities.

Shoes and clothes are made worthy by the person who wears them.
One's value does not rise and fall with high and low prices.

Simplicity, purity, and abstinence are the true gems.
Mined gems are not the only brilliant jewels.

What is the use of gold land ornaments of the woman is ignorant?
Gold and jewels will not cover up that blemish.

Only the robe of abstinence can mask one's faults.
The robe of conceit and passion is no better than nakedness.

A woman who is pure and dignified can never be humiliated.
That which is pure cannot be affected by the impurities of incontinence.

Chastity is a treasure, the woman its guard, greed the wolf.
Woe if she knows not the rules of guarding the treasure.

The Devil never attends the table of piety as guest.
He knows that that is no place of feasting.

Walk on the straight path, because on crooked lanes
you find no provision or guidance, only remorse.

Hearts and eyes do need a veil, the veil of chastity.
A worn-out chador is not the basis of faith in Islam.



A Woman's Place

A home without a woman lacks amity and affection.
When one's heart is cold, the soul is dead.

Providence has nowhere decreed in book or discourse.
that excellence is man's, defect woman's share.

In creation's edifice woman has always been the pillar.
Who can build a house without a foundation?

If woman hadn't shone like the sun above life's mountain.
love's jeweler in vain would seek for gems in the mine.

Woman was an angel the moment she showed her face.
How ironic, then, that Satan slanders the angel!

Plato and Socrates were great because the mothers
who nurtured them were themselves great.

Loghman was succored by his mother in the cradle
long before attendance at school made him a philosopher.

Whether heroes or mystics, ascetics or jurists,
they all were first pupils in her school.

How can a child with no mother learn to love?
A kingdom with no ruler offers no safety and order.

Do you want to know the duties of man and woman?
The wife is the ship, the husband the sailor.

When the captain is wise and the ship solidly built.
why should there be fear of maelstroms and tempests?

If disaster strikes on this sea of troubles.
both can rely on each other's diligence and effort.

Today's girls are tomorrow's mothers.
On the mothers rests the greatness of the sons.

The clothes of good men would be all tattered,
if good women's hands didn't mend their holes.

Wherein lie man's strength and sustenance? In his wife's support.
What are woman's riches? Love of her children.

A good wife is more than the lady of the house.
She is its physician and nurse, guardian and protector.

In times of felicity she is comrade and tender friend.
In times of adversity she shares the trouble and is helpmate.

An understanding wife frowns not in times of paucity.
A gentle husband fouls not his mouth with ugly words.

If life becomes restive like an unruly horse,
husband and wife assist each other in drawing the reins.

That man or woman succeeds to greatness
who gathers in fruits from the garden of knowledge.

In the world of arts and science are proffered attractive goods.
Let's trade in that market.

A woman who neglects to buy the gems of education and learning
has sold the jewel of her precious life too cheaply.

Alive are only those who wear a robe of excellence;
dead are those whose worth is measured by their nakedness.

Providence provides us with countless books of ideas.
We tear them all apart in search of a title or slogan.

When schools were wisely opened, we behaved foolishly.
When the arts flourished, we hid ourselves.

If the Devil's booth of selfishness and langor
is torn down, we are all lost.

Our time is spent in things like finding out
how much this one's dress cost, how much that one's shoes.

For our bodies we buy fanciful ornaments.
For our souls we tailor only coats of contempt.

We undermine the foundation of our spiritual building with conceit.
but build up new shops everywhere for our body's sake.

This attitude betrays corruption, nor dignity.
This conduct represents abjection, not glory.

We do not grow wild like weeds on plains and river banks.
We are not little birds content with some seeds.

If we stick to wearing our own homespun, what matter to us
Whether others' brocade has gone up in price or down.

Worn out cloth of our own manufacture is comelier
Than the silk produced by foreigners.

Is there any robe more precious than that of knowledge?
What brocade is prettier than that of learning?

Any clew spun by the spindle of wisdom
in the workshop of ambition turns into linen and silk.

Not by wearing earrings, necklaces, and coral bracelets
can a woman count herself a great lady.

What are colorful gold brocades and glittering ornaments good for,
if the face lacks the beauty of excellence?

The hands and neck of a good woman, O Parvin,
deserve the jewels of learning, not of color.


Translations by Heshmat Maoyyed


chador a veil worn by Persian women covering the entire body and dress from head to toe.
Loghman a legendary philosopher recognized in Islamic tradition as a symbol of wisdom.


Source:  Iraj Bashiri;



Yadollah Royai

Yadollah Royai (1931-    )
Born in Damqan, northeast of Iran, Yadolleh Royai is the poet of the New Wave or the Poem of Imagination. He is a graduate of college of law and human sciences and he has worked for the state television for several years.

His poetry renewed debate about the relative value of form and context in modern Persian poetry. Yadollah is careful to produce unity in his poems. His sea songs reflect French symbolism. He moves to exotic marine landscape and creates glorious lyrical images, focusing mostly on symbols rather than metaphors in image building. His lyrics are and deeply imbued with Persian mysticism.



Silence seemed a flower bouquet
In my larynx.

The melody of the coast
Was the breeze of my kiss and your open eye-lid.

On the water, the bird of the wind,
Was disturbed in the nest of a thousand sounds.
On waters
The bird was restless.

The sound of the wet thunder, 
And the light, the wet light of the lightening,
Built a mirror in the water
With a luminous frame out of the sea flames.

The breeze of kiss and
Your eye-lid and
The bird of wind,
Grew into fire and smoke
In my larynx
Silence was like a flower bouquet.


Houshang Ebtehaj


(1928-    )
Houshang Ebtehaj was born in 1928 in Rasht, North of Iran. He published his first book when he was only 19 years old. He chose ‘Sayeh' /sa:yeh/ as his pen name, which means ‘shadow' / ‘shade'.  Ebtehaj was active in different literary movements and gatherings and took considerable part in various literary magazines such as Sokhan and Kavian.

After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Sayeh spent some time in prison for his ideas. He has several works in poetry almost all of which are well-known in the world of Persian literature. In his poems, he is shown as a highly motivated person in love, who has gone through years of pain and suffering. He also worked and did some meaningful researches on Hafez poems that is of high value.

O Joy!

O joy!
O liberty!
O joy of liberty!
When you return,
What shall I do
With this melancholy heart?

Our sorrow is heavy,
Our hearts are bleeding,
Blood spurts from our heads to our feet,
From head to foot we are wounded,
From head to foot we are bloody,
From head to foot we are all pain.
We have exposed our loving heart to hazards
For your sake.

When the tongue feared the lip,
When the pen doubted the paper,
Even, even our recollection dreaded to speak during dreams,
We used to engrave your name in our heart
Like an image on turquoise.

When in that dark street,
Night followed night,
And the horror of its silence
Crashed on the closed window,
We spread your voice like spurting blood
Like a stone thrown in the swamp
On the roof and at the door.

When the deceit of the beast,
Disguised in Solomon's garment,
Wore the ring on his finger,
We used to rhyme your secret, like God's mightiest name
In poetry and ode.

We spoke of
Wine, of flower, of morning,
Of mirror, of flight,
Of Phoenix, of the sun.

We spoke of light, of goodness,
Of wisdom, of love,
Of faith, of hope.

That bird that journeyed in the cloud,
That seed in the ground that grow into a lawn,
That light that danced in the mirror,
And murmured to our heart's solitude,
Spoke of meeting you at every breath.

In the school, in the market,
In the mosque, in the town square,
In jail, in chains,
We murmured your name:

Those nights, those nights, those nights,
Those dark and horrible nights,
Those nights of nightmare,
Those nights of tyranny,
Those nights of faith,
Those nights of shouting,
Those nights of patience and awakenings,
We sought you in the street,
We called your name on the roofs:

I said:
"When you return
I will lift my young heart
Like the banner of victory,
And will hoist
The bloody banner
On your lofty roof.

I said:
"On the day that you return,
I will strew this blossoming blood, 
Like a bouquet of rose,
At your foot;
And will hang
My rolling arms
Around your proud neck.

O liberty!
This carpet lying under your foot,
Is dyed with blood.
This flower garlands is made of blood,
It is the flower of blood...

O liberty!
You come through the alley of blood,
You will come and I tremble in my heart:
What is this which is concealed in your hand?
What is this which is twisted around your leg?
O liberty!
Are you 
With chains?...


The Wall

Behind this lofty mountain,
Beside the pale sea,
There was a girl
with whom
I was madly in love.
As if Gali 
Had been created
That I should love her fervently,
And she should love me sweetly...

And you know
O silent stars!
How happy we were,
Me and she were drunk in the sweet sleep of hope,
And what pure happiness
Laughed in my eyes and hers...

And now, O coy maidens,
If you aren't dumb,
Open your mouths
And say what happened from that calumny?
What happened to this clouded spring!

And between me and she,
Now lies this vast plain,
Now this long way,
And this lofty mountain...


Translations by M. Alexandrian



Celebrating The 80th Anniversary of Houshang Ebtehaj in Persian

Manouchehr Atashi

Manouchehr Atashi is a rare poet who has created a special language and diction in modern poetry. Born in the warm southern coastal region and with vivid image of the desert environment and tribal life, his poems are the poems of the fighting horsemen. He combines the coloring of sincere experience with various episodes, which gives a charming tincture to his poems.

After secondary school education in Bushir, Atashi received his BS degree in English literature in Tehran.  His poetry is the poetry of the revolting warrior of the humiliated southern tribesman. He takes his work seriously and although attached to his native birthplace his poems are universal scope. In his later works Atashi has relaxed his rhythm and has moved toward direct expression of emotion.


The Lay of Regret

One morning 
- One true morning -
If the sun rises according to your wishes;

A frame of mountain and valley,
A frame of window, if the bird had reaches you -

A wide plain, wet tulips!
A laughing sepal,
A sigh of contentment and peace 
- O you melancholy and persistent one -
O living stone, an embodiment of patience! -
A defeated life would have been your portion.



We Didn’t Know

Had we advanced a bit further
Our path would have perhaps led to the sea,
Our sleep would have perhaps turned into dream.

Had we paddled more
Perhaps we would have an agreeable wind,
If we didn't return to the coast,
The water would perhaps have sucked our corpses into the depth.

We were neither a rushing river,
To gallop over, obstacles, sharp ends, plains to... the sea,
Neither were we a moat to serve as watering trough for the mangy wolf...
Nor a mangy wolf which is after its carnal desires,
To submit ..... to the secret moment of a cursed death undisturbed.

We didn't who called us, when and why? whom we called 
and why we joined the path
Or why we were delayed.
We didn't know who we were and when we existed,
And who has tied this dog inside ourselves to the chain of our vein,
And when.

We don't know who we were and who we are,
Whether our pain was from a wound inflected by a heavenly stone
Or we ourselves are a stinking wound in the body of existence...

We didn't know.

Translations by M. Alexandrian



Shaghayegh va Pol in Persian

Nima Yushij



Nima Yushij (his real name is Ali Esfandiyari), the eldest son of Ebrahim Nuri of Yush was born in November 1896. He grew up in Yush, mostly helping his father with the farm and taking care of the cattle. As a boy, he visited many local summer and winter camps and mingled with shepherds and itenary workers. Life around the camp fire, especially images emerging from the shepherds' simple and entertaining stories about village and tribal conflicts, impressed him greatly. These images, etched in the young poet's memory waited until his power of diction developed sufficiently to release them.

Nima's early education took place in a maktab. A truant student, the mullah had to seek him out in the streets, drag him to school, and punished him. At the age of twelve, Nima was taken to Tehran and registered at the St. Louis School. The atmosphere at the Roman Catholic school did not change Nima's ways, but the instruction of a thoughtful teacher did. Nizam Vafa, a major poet himself, took the budding poet under his wing and nurtured his poetic talent.

Instruction at the Catholic school was in direct contrast to instruction at the makteb. Similarly, living among the urban people was at variance with life among the tribal and rural peoples of the north. In addition, both these lifestyles differed greatly from the description of the lifestyle about which he read in his books or listened to in class. Although it did not change his attachment to tradition, the difference set fire to young Nima's imagination. In other words, even though Nima continued to write poetry in the tradition of Sa'di and Hafiz for quite some time his expression was being affected gradually and steadily. Until, eventually, a time came when the impact of the new became too overwhelming. It overpowered the tenacity of tradition and led Nima down a new path. Consequently, Nima began to replace the familar devices that he felt were impeding the free flow of ideas with innovative, even though less familiar devices that enhanced a free flow of concepts.  Ay Shab (O Night) and Afsaneh (Myth) belong to this transitional period in the poet's life (1922).

Hey, People

Hey, you over there
who are sitting on the shore, happy and laughing,
someone is dying in the water,
someone is constantly struggling
on this angry, heavy, dark, familiar sea.
When you are drunk
with the thought of getting your hands on your enemy,
when you think in vain
that you've given a hand to a weak person
to produce a better weak person,
when you tighten your belts, when,
when shall I tell you
that someone in the water
is sacrificing in vain?

Hey, you over there
who are sitting pleasantly on the shore,
bread on your tablecloths, clothes on your bodies,
someone is calling you from the water.
He beats the heavy wave with his tired hand,
his mouth agape, eyes torn wide with terror,
he has seen your shadows from afar,
has swallowed water in the dark blue deep,
each moment his impatience grows.
He raises from these waters
a foot, at times,
at times, his head...
Hey you there,
he still has his eyes on this old world from afar,
he's shouting and hopes for help.
Hey you there
who are calmly watching from the shore,
the wave beats on the silent shore, spreads
like a drunk fallen on his bed unconscious,
recedes with a roar, and this call comes from afar again:
Hey, you over there...

And the sound of the wind
more heart-rending by the moment,
and his voice weaker in the sound of the wind;
from waters near and far
again this call is heard:
Hey, you over there...


My House is Cloudy

My House is Cloudy
the entire earth is cloudy.

Above the narrow pass, the shattered and desolate and drunken
wind whirls downward.
The entire world is desolated by it
so are my senses!

Oh, piper who has lost the road entranced by the melody of the flute,
where are you?

My house is cloudy but 
the cloud is on the verge of weeping.
In the memory of my bright days that slipped through my fingers,
I cast a look upon my sun on the threshold of the ocean 
and the entire world is desolated and shattered by the wind
and on the road, the piper continues to play his flute,
in this cloud-filled world
his own path stretching out before him.

The Soldier’s Family

 The candle burns, beside the curtain set, 
So far this woman hasn't slept yet;
Over the cradle she leans (alone),
O wretched one, O wretched one.
A few rags form the curtain of the spouse
To protect the house.

For two days no food she has tasted,
With two kids, she hasn't rested;
One is ten, she is sleeping,
The other is awake and wailing.
She cries for her mother's milk which is small
This is another woe, (it is dismal).

The neighbor's child wears well,
She has her sports and eats well.
What difference is between these (I'm grieved)
What the other owns this one is bereaved.
A soldier's child dressed in rags (and gall)
Why must she live at all?

All she sees is but asperity
What she reads, breathes adversity;
Her back is bending, with all the load,
Her eyesight is dim in this abode;
Thus she labors like a man;
Thus she toils, the woman.

In the Cold Winter Night

In the cold winter night The furnace of the sun too 
Burns not like the hot hearth of my lamp, 
And no lamp is luminous as mine
Neither it freezes by the cold moon that shines above. 

I lit my lamp when my neighbor was walking in a dark night,
And it was a cold winter night,
The wind encircled the pine,
Amid silent heaps
She was lost from me, separated from this narrow lane,
And still the story is remembered,
And on my lips these words lingered:
"Who lights? Who burns?
Who saves this tale of the heart?"

In the cold winter night
The furnace of the sun too 
Burns not like the hot hearth of my lamp, 
And no lamp is luminous as mine
Neither it freezes by the cold moon that shines above.



Sohrab Sepehri



Sohrab Sepehri, poet and painter was born in 1928 in Kashan Iran. After obtaining his high school diploma, he attended and obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Honar-haye Ziba (Fine Arts) Faculty of Tehran University. In the first twelve years after his graduation he worked in several government agencies while on the side pursuing his personal interest in poetry and painting. During these years he also travelled on numerous occasions to Europe, and Africa.

In 1964 he completely resigned from his governmental position and began focusing all his time and energy on poetry and painting. He moved and lived in USA for one year, and subsequently spent about two years living in Paris. During this time period he painted numerous paintings applying the same soft and gentle style, which can be found in his poems.

In 1979 he was diagnosed with cancer and for the last time he moved to England for treatment. A year later, in 1980, he passed away in Tehran and now he rests in his birthplace, Kashan.  


The Foot Steps Of Water

Life's a pleasant tradition.
Life's wing is as vast as death.
Life's a jump the size of love.
Life's not something,
we put on the mantel of habit
and forget.

It does not matter where I am.
The sky is always mine.
Windows, ideas, air, love,
earth, all mine.
Why does it matter if sometimes,
the mushrooms of nostalgia grow?

Let's take off our clothes.
Water is just a foot away.
Let's have a basket and
fill it up with all the greens
and all the reds.

We are not to comprehend;
the secret of roses, but maybe
swimming in the incantation of roses.
Or may be looking for
the song of truth
between the morning glory,
and the century.



There was a special moment,
All doors were open.
No leaves, no branches,
The garden of annihilation had appeared.
birds of places were silent,
This silent, that silent,
The silence itself was utterance.

What was that area?
Seems a ewe and a wolf,
Standing side by side.*
The shape of the sound, pale
The voice of the shape, weak
Was the curtain folded?

I was gone, he was gone,
We had lost us.
The beauty was alone.
Every river had become a sea,
Every being had become a Buddha.

* Refers to dawn

Translations by: Mahvash Shahegh


An Oasis in the Moment

If you come to visit me,
You will find me behind the realm of naught.
Behind naught there is a place
Where the veins of the air is full of dandelions
Who bring the happy tidings of flowers blossoming at the farthest bush.
Over the sands also you can see the delicate footsteps of the horseman who mounted the anemone hill of ascension at morning.
Beyond the realm of naught, the umbrella of desire has been spread
So that the breeze of thirst can run into the root of the leave,
The siren of the rain resounds.
One is lonely here,
And in this loneliness the shade of an elm tree stretches to eternity.
If you come to visit me
Come gently and slowly lest the fragile china
of my solitude cracks.


The Address

"Where is the friend's house?," the rider asked in the twilight.
Heaven paused;
The passerby bestowed the flood of light on his lips to darkness of sands
And pointed to a poplar and said:

"Near the tree,
Is a garden-line greener than God's dream 
Where love is bluer than the feathers of honesty.
Walk to the end of the lane which emerges from behind puberty,
Then turn towards the flower of solitude;
Two steps to the flower,
Stay by the eternal mythological fountain of earth
where a transparent fear will visit you.
In the flowing intimacy of the space you will hear a rustling sound:
You will see a child
Who has ascended a tall plane tree to pick up chicks from the nest of light.
Ask him:
Where is the friend's house?


Paintings by Sepehri







The reeds are brawling.

The birds are humming.

The door is open and the glance is lost,

a message, reaching for the continuation of the field.

A cow under the spruce.

Eternity on the awnings.

Illusions, jutting the cusp of every leaf.

And there are no words,no names.

Below, road of honesty.

Above, sun of unison.





The Primal Call

Where are my shoes

who was it that called Sohrab

the voice was familiar, as is air with the body of a leaf

mother is sleeping

so are Manutchehr and Parvaneh, and maybe

everybody in town

it is a summer night, an elegy quietly passing

over the moments

and a cool breeze is sweeping my sleep

along the green edges of the blanket

there is a smell of migration

my pillow is stuffed with the songs of the swallows.


Morning will come

and the sky will migrate

into this water bowl,

I must go tonight.


I spoke through the openest window with the people


this land

but I heard no word of the stuff of times

no eye glanced lovingly at the earth

nobody was fascinated by a garden

nobody took the magpie in the field seriously.


I feel as gloomy as a cloud

when I see Hoori

- that is our neighbor's mature girl -

under the rarest elm on the earth

studying theology.


But there are some things, some high moments

( I saw a woman poet, for example

so absorbed in space

that the sky laid eggs in her eyes,

also one night

a man asked me

how long it takes to reach the rising grapes. )


I must go tonight

I must pack the suitcase

which has enough room for my robe of solitude

and must go where

I can see epical trees

towards that wordless enormity which keeps calling me.


Somebody again called Sohrab

where are my shoes ?