My Country, I Shall Build You Again!

Three poems by Simin Behbahani (1927-2014)

  • Translated by Sara Khalili & edited by Michael Beard
  • From the bilingual edition (c) My Country, I Shall Build You Again. Tehran: Sokhan Publishers, 2009.
  • Artwork: (c) I’m not a Persian Painting by Aphrodite Desiree Navab.

Twelve Fountains of Blood

For what sin was she killed?

Twelve fountains of blood stain her shirt,

her two jasmine braids lie on the dust of madness.

It is not from the wounds on her body that blood streams,

an angel it seems has put a smile on her flower-like lips.

It is not lead from the hands of tyranny sprinkled on her clothes,

it is stars from the sky that have trickled into her cup.

She who politely sat in my classroom for a year,

has fallen so that she can no longer listen to my words.

An angel in whose innocence there was no sin,

What dealing with the devil could she have had?

From death and its kiss her heart bears mark,

though her two sweetbrier blossoms have yet to bloom.

Dressed in silk and made of porcelain,

who had the heart to leave her in the hands of a shroud?

A father’s eyes will no longer shine at the whiff of her scent.

Brothers! In the dark of the night, what became of her shirt?

What could have been her sin, it should be asked.

Don’t keep it a secret if talk of it you hear.

June 1985

The Necklace

Disturbed and desolate, sad and somber,

no chador covering her head, no hijab for her face.

Her eyes a pair of grapes separated from their cluster,

from them the hands of time have pressed a hundred barrels of blood.

Mad, completely mad, a stranger to herself and to all;

from her stupor she would not waken were the world to wash away.

With no purpose and no aim, this dead leaf goes with the wind;

silent, staring and confused, grave-less has remained this corpse.

A pair of tears and a few curses, a dead soldier’s boots,

with laces tied, she has slung around her neck.

I asked, “What is the meaning of this?”

She laughed and said,

“My child – my poor child sits on my shoulders.

He has not taken off his boots.”

September 1988

My Country, I Shall Build You Again!

To the lady of Persian stories, Simin Daneshvar

My country, I shall build you again, even if with bricks of my life.

I shall erect pillars beneath your roof, even if with my own bones.

I shall again smell those flowers favored by your young,

I shall again cleanse you of blood with the flood of my tears.

Again, on a dazzling day, darkness will leave my home, and I shall paint my poems with the blue of my sky.

Though I have been dead a hundred years, I shall rise from my grave

to tear the heart of evil with ,y thunderous cry.

He who with kindness resurrects those old bones1,

will grant me the glory of a mountain in his testing grounds.

Though I am old, if there remains a chance to learn,

I shall be young again beside my young.

I shall recite the hadith2 of “love of homeland” with such passion,

That every heartfelt word shall come to life on my open lips.

Still, in my heart there remains a fire that from tis flames,

I do not believe the dwindling of the love of my people.

Again you shall give me strength, even if my poem is mired in blood;

once again I will build you with my life, even if it be

beyond my might.

March 1982

  1. Author uses “azm-e ramim,” which refers to the day of resurrection when God will resurrect man from his decayed bones.
  2. Hadith are oral traditions referring to the words and deeds of the Prophet.

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