A Place Between

I first came to the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad as a teenager in Iran. The listless wanting and dark desires she spoke to in her poetry resonated inside my anxious, restless mind. Like many teenagers I dwelt in these dark thoughts romanticizing the macabre. Death seemed like an exotic country too far to touch but easy to imagine myself in. In that same year young women renting a room in my childhood house took her own life. I remember seeing her body laid out on the bed through the slit in the door.

Forty years later I have found myself returning to the verses of Forough Farrokhzad. Stumbling over her words in my now broken Farsi and with the experience of a doctor who has come to know death intimately. I have become an exile and the lines of Forough’s poems spin a silken bridge from me to Iran.

A place between is a visual digestion of Forough’s poem Reborn. Each photograph is not a line of poetry but an act of consumption. The verses of Reborn are now starting to calcify in my bones and guide my eye. They are in the landscapes of my mind. A land of haunting beauty populated only by the birds able to traverse the membrane of reality and dreams.


Reborn-  a Poem by Forugh Farrokhzad, Translated From Farsi by Sholeh Wolpe?

All my being is a dark verse 
that repeats you to the dawn 
of unfading flowering and growth. 
I conjured you in my poem with a sigh 
and grafted you to water, fire, and trees.

Perhaps life is a long avenue 
a woman with a basket crosses every day; 
perhaps life is a rope 
with which a man hangs himself from a tree, 
or is a child returning home from school.

Maybe life is the act of lighting a cigarette 
in the listless pause between lovemaking, 
or the vacant glance of a passerby who tips 
his hat and says, Good morning! 
                                            with a meaningless smile.

Perhaps life is a choked moment where my gaze 
annihilates itself inside in the pupils of your eyes— 
                       I will mingle that sensation with my grasp 
                       of the moon and comprehension of darkness.

In a room the size of loneliness, 
my heart’s the size of love. 
It contemplates its simple pretexts for happiness: 
the beauty of the flowers’ wilting in a vase, 
the sapling you planted in our garden, 
and the canaries’ song—the size of a window.

Alas, this is my lot. 
This is my lot. 
My lot is a sky that can be shut out 
by the mere hanging of a curtain. 
My lot is descending a lonely staircase 
to something rotting and falling apart in its exile. 
My lot is a gloomy stroll in a grove of memories, 
and dying from longing for a voice 
that says: I love your hands.

I plant my hands in the garden soil— 
I will sprout, 
                      I know, I know, I know. 
And in the hollow of my ink-stained palms 
swallows will make their nest.

I will adorn my ears with twin-cherry sprigs, 
wear dahlia petals on my nails. 
There is an alley where boys who once loved me still stand 
with the same tousled hair, thin necks, and scrawny legs, 
contemplating the innocent smiles of a young girl 
swept away one night by the wind.

There is an alley my heart has stolen 
from my childhood turf.

A body traveling along the line of time 
impregnates time’s barren cord, 
and returns from the mirror’s feast 
intimate with its own image. 
This is how one dies, and another remains.

No seeker will ever find pearls from a stream 
                                 that pours into a ditch.

I know a sad little fairy who lives in the sea 
and plays the wooden flute of her heart tenderly, 
tenderly . . . 
A sad small fairy who dies at night with a kiss 
and is reborn with a kiss at dawn.


About the Poet-Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-67) is arguably Iran’s most significant and controversial female poet of the 20th century. She died in a car crash, she was 32.

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