Sadness – Ahmad Shamlou


They smell your mouth

in case you said, ‘I love you.’

They smell your heart

in case there is a flame hidden in it.

It’s a strange time, beloved.

And they whip Love at the roadside post.

One must hide love in the pantry.

In this twisted wintry cul-de-sac

the fire

is kept burning

with the fuel of anthems and poetry.

Do not risk thinking.

It’s a strange time, beloved,

He who pounds on the door at night time

has come to kill the lantern.

One must hide light in the pantry.*

Now the butchers are stationed at every crossroads

with bloodied block and cleaver.

It’s a strange time, beloved.

And they carve a smile on the lips

and a song on the mouth.

One must hide joy in the pantry

The canary becomes a kebab

on the fires of rose and jasmine

It’s a strange time, beloved.

The drunken victorious demon

is feasting at the table of our death.

God too must be hidden in the pantry.

Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) translated by Martin and Farah V. Turner

*Pastou … hidden inner room or sanctum for food storage.

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