May 17, 2010

“Not one, not two …they were five” by Simin Behbahani

Washington, DC – NIAC is pleased to present a new poem by the Lioness of Iran, Simin Behbahani. A champion of human rights, Behbahani is in Iran and has been banned from leaving the country. Prof. Fatemeh Keshavarz of Washington University of St. Louis provided the translation. 


بگو چگونه بنویسم یکی نه، پنج تن بودند

نه پنج، بلکه پنجاهان به خاطرات من بودند


بگو چگونه بنویسم که دار از درخت آمد

درخت آن درختانی که خود تبر شکن بودند


بگو چگونه بنویسم که چوب دارها روزی

فشرده پای آزادی به فرق هر چمن بودند


نسیم در درختستان به شاخه ها چو می پیوست

پیام هاش دست افشان به سوی مرد و زن بودند


کنون سری به هر داری شکسته گردنی دارد

که روز و روزگارانی یلان تهمتن بودند


چه پای در هوا مانده چه لال و بی صدا مانده

معطل اند این سرها که دفتری سخن بودند


مگر ببارد از ابری بر این جنازه ها اشکی

که مادران جدا مانده ز پاره های تن بودند


ز داوران بی ایمان چه جای شکوه ام کاینان

نه خصم ظلم و ظلمت ها که خصم ذوالمنن بودند

Not one, not two …they were five

By Simin Behbahani

Translated by Fatemeh Keshavarz


Not one, not two …they were five and yet I don’t know why

In my mind, they were more like fifty.

And, how is it possible that gallows [on which they were hanged]

Were, someday, trees that did not surrender to axes?


Tell me how to write about the treehood days of the gallows:

Standing firm for freedom, they dug their heels in
the meadow.

When the breeze found them in the orchard and wrapped itself around their

Their message reached everyone in soft playful dances.


Now, heads have grown on them, heads hanging from broken necks,

Heads of full-bodied figures, perhaps champions in their own way.   

Left waiting, feet-dangling-in-the-air, utterly robbed of their words,

These heads whose stories could have filled many books!

Only clouds could now rain tears on their broken bodies,

For mothers were not united with them even after
their death.


Don’t waste a complaint on the faithless judge, who

Was the enemy, not of darkness and tyranny, but of the Giver of life.



Simin Behbahani سیمین
بهبهانی is
among the most outstanding contemporary Persian poets. Known affectionately as
the Lioness of Iran for her outspoken defense of human rights, she
has been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature, and has “received
many literary accolades around the world.”  Behbahani is the author of more than
ten volumes of poetry and currently serves as the President of the Iranian
Writers’ Association. In early March 2010, she was prevented from leaving the
country for a visit to Paris.
Her passport has since been confiscated. Click here for more
information on Behbahani.

Fatemeh Keshavarz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Asian
and Near Eastern Languages & Literature at Washington University in St.
Louis. She is the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in
Click here for more
information on Keshavarz. 




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