Little night


All day, the firefly clings unmoving to the double-paned storm door as it swings open and shut. Fast-moving thunderstorms dump rain on the upturned faces of evening primroses; water gurgles in every ditch and draw. On the other side of the world, a young woman whose name means voice or call is shot dead in the middle of the street. Millions watch the cellphone video: rivers of blood spilling from her mouth and nostrils, her wide-open gaze fixed on infinity. Then night descends, the shortest of the northern year, full of cries and fires. I log off around 10:00 and step outside to listen to what seems at first like a restless multitude: the rushing wind and water. Fireflies blown sideways in mid-blink seem to be attempting some form of Morse code.

Seven hours later, as dawn breaks on the solstice, we find a juvenile screech owl perched on a small snag beside a trail, possibly just fledged and not quite ready to fly. Its mother shrieks and clacks her bill at us. I take two flash pictures and move quickly away, anxious not to attract the attention of crows.

screech owl fledgling 2

Farough (or Forugh) Farrokhzad was, by all accounts, one of the greatest Iranian poets of the 20th century. Here’s an English translation of one of her poems that seems appropriate to the moment. It’s from Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpe.

The Wind Will Take Us

by Forough Farrokhzad

Inside my little night, alas,
the wind has a rendezvous with the leaves;
inside my little night, there is fear
and dread of desolation.

Hear the darkness blow like wind?
I watch this prosperity through alien eyes.
I am addicted to my despair.
Hear the darkness blow?

This minute, inside this night,
something’s coming to pass. The moon
is troubled and red; clouds
are a procession of mourners waiting
to release tears upon this rooftop,
this rooftop about to crumble, to give way.

A moment,
then, nothing.

Beyond this window, the night quivers,
and the earth once again halts its spin.
From beyond this window, the eyes
of the unknown are on you and me.

May you be green, head to toe—
put your hands like a fevered memory in mine…
these hands that love you.

And cede your lips
like a life-warmed feeling
to the caress of my lovesick lips.

The wind will one day blow us away.
The wind will blow us away.

10 Replies to “Little night”

  1. What a fitting response to what’s been going on overseas. Your post is a beautiful tribute to Neda and the Iranians. With that said, I love your owl picture. Have a great night.

  2. Thanks, all, for the kind comments. It’s always gratifying when words and pictures come together synergistically. I’ve also gotten some feedback on the translation via email from a Farsi-speaking correspondent, and will quote her remarks here if she gives permission. Evidently there is a religious/mystical subtext to the poem that’s lost in translation.

  3. That owl looks peeved to me, like “WTF flash?” ;-) The fireflies are out down here, too, hovering over sidewalks and paths as well as green spaces. It occurs to me now that I haven’t spotted any glowworms (the females of the species, which stay on the ground with their signal lights).

    The poem is interesting, but I’m declining emotional involvement in the Iranian situation, simply because there’s too much I don’t know about it, and it’s not my culture, let alone country. I do know that the green color that’s been adopted by the protesters is linked to Islam — that “green from head to toe” is surely one of those religious significances.

    1. Of course. yes, I’m trying to avoid emotional involvement, too, but I am very interested by the struggle. The Shi’a empahsis on memonry/mourning and distrust of government appeal to me.

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