Simin Behbahani was banned from traveling beyond Iran’s borders during the final years of her life.
Simin Behbahani was both Iran’s nightingale and lioness: she published nineteen books of poetry over the course of six decades and she is known for her fearlessness and ferocity.
She outspokenly supported freedom of expression. Behbahani published her first book of poetry, Setar-e Shekasteh (“Broken Lute”) in 1951.
She was banned from traveling beyond Iran’s borders during the final years of her life.
One of the most famous of Behbahani’s poems, “A Cup of Sin,” reflects on the paradox of fear and hope:
I will build you again,
If need be,
Made from my life.
I will build columns
To support your roof,
If need be,
With my own bones.
I will inhale again
The perfume of flower
I will wash again
The blood off
Of my tears.”
Gracefully She Approached
Gracefully she approached,
In a dress of bright blue silk;
With an olive branch in her hand,
And many tales of sorrows in her eyes.
Running to her, I greeted her,
And took her hand in mine:
Pulses could still be felt in her veins;
Warm was still her body with life.
“But you are dead, mother”, I said;
“Oh, many years ago you died!”
Neither of embalmment she smelled,
Nor in a shroud was she wrapped.
I gave a glance at the olive branch;
She held it out to me,
And said with a smile,
“It is the sign of peace; take it.”
I took it from her and said,
“Yes, it is the sign of…” when
My voice and peace were broken
By the violent arrival of a horseman.
He carried a dagger under his tunic
With which he shaped the olive branch
Into a rod and looking at it
He said to himself:
“Not too bad a cane
For punishing the sinners!”
A real image of a hellish pain!
Then, to hide the rod,
He opened his saddlebag.
In there, O God!
I saw a dead dove, with a string tied
Round its broken neck.
My mother walked away with anger and sorrow;
My eyes followed her;
Like the mourners she wore
A dress of black silk.
Wine of Light
The stars have closed their eyes, come.
The wine of light flows through the veins of the night, come.
I have poured so many tears waiting in the night’s lap,
That twilight has blossomed and the morning has bloomed, come.
In my mind’s sky your memory etches lines of gold
Like a shooting star, come.
I’ve sat so long with the night telling my tale of woe
That the night and I have turned pale with sorrow, come.
If you are waiting to see me again when I die,
Understand, this is the time, come.
If I hear anyone’s footsteps, I imagine they are yours,
With all this beating, my heart is bursting out my breast, come.
You didn’t come when the sky was full of stars like grapes,
Now that dawn has picked them one by one, come.
You’re the hope in the heart of Simin-the-broken-hearted,
Put an end to my misery, come.
Andry-Andreja Jakus, a Professor at Hacettepe University, Zagreb, Croatia, is Academic Writer, Bibliographer, Lexicographer, Translator, Language Tutor and Reviewer. In her columns, she writes on poetry, philosophy, cultural studies, history of religions etc.
Courtesy: Andry-Andreja Jakus/LinkedIn – Published with permission of the author