in the fragrance garden / credit: d.enck
I have chosen the poetry of Bijan Najdi’s for its heartbroken yet hopeful and tender view of the world. Najdi’s poems provide a window into concerns of modern Persian poetry and Iranian society. I also have a personal connection with these poems. I was a high school student in Iran when I exchanged Najdi’s poetry with my classmates. At those times of political oppression and social depression, his poetry inspired us to fall in love with the world and Mother Nature despite our grim situations. Most of us were headed towards an empty college degree in a highly educated society that cannot afford to employ its young population. Few could afford prosperous careers or adventures. Marriage awaited most of us. But poetry kept us alive and full of hope.
is this rug
under the feet of the sofa,
the fragrance of its flowers
on your skin
walks to your hearts.
is this paper album,
spread on the table
with paper tears
with paper smiles
with paper eyes
My sky is
carvings on the ceilings of the mosques
Do you see how I am?
Do you see
that my music is the sound of your voices
passing through the alley?
Birth Certificate Number
Does anyone know the birth certificate number of wheat flowers?
Which Saturday gave birth to the first Spring?
Does anyone know where I could buy a calendar with three seasons?
No one believes
the cottonwood tree is my cousin
or that the sound of Kamancheh
falls from my hair
Does anyone know the blood type of the Friday, fallen under the bridge?
bridge of now
bridge of this very moment
is it O-?
A or B?
or is it AB?
Reality Is My Imagination
Reality is my imagination
The blood of my dreams is green—greener
than the leaves on a plant
Telex machine of news agencies
and sharp edges of the words in the newspapers
can’t spill it
Reality is my dreams
there, no one gets slapped
and no knife is an embarrassment to its blade
there, a smile is not assassinated
no hero dies at the hand of an angry tired old man
body parts of the children who die on the news, on the radio, on TV
in Africa, in the Middle East, it doesn’t matter where, in the Far East,
in my dreams, return to the cradle and their tears,
they grow up in my dreams
they go to school in my dreams and
learn to write water and pomegranate
and a tree will grow from the pages of the Business Relationships they leave on the shelf
in a simple house
they will bear children and
one day on a simple white bed
next to simple people
with a simple definition of death
they die in my dreams
Alas, reality is neither my dreams nor your imagination
Neither my hopes nor your wishes
It’s you, reading the newspaper
and sometimes my poems too
Lovers are the plants whose roots
have pierced my palms
the bones of your shoulders
my broken skull.
will become berries one day
a pomegranate sometimes
grapes that grew yesterday
olives and bitter tomorrow
Note: Permission to translate these poems was given by the last publisher of Sisters of this Summer, the Iranian collection in which these poems previously appeared.
About Bijan Najdi
Bijan Najdi (1941-1997) was an Iranian writer and poet most known for his collection of short stories, The Cheetahs that Ran With Me. Growing up in north of Iran alongside the Caspian Sea and Elburz mountains, Najdi’s poetry is a direct response to the green and generous landscape against the struggles of modernity and the aftermath of Iran-Iraq war in the post-revolution Iran.
About Parisa Saranj
Parisa Saranj was born in Isfahan, Iran. She holds a BA in journalism from University of Massachusetts Amherst and MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Goucher College. Parisa works as a freelance translator and editor, currently completing a memoir of growing up in 1990s’ Iran. Her writing and translations have appeared in several online publications, including Aslan Media, LobeLog.com, Your Impossible Voice, and Nimrod International Journal.