Mohsen Emadi: 'YAMSA, A Tribute to Absence' (from 'Standing on Earth')

In memory of Farzad Kamangar

Translation from Persian by Lyn Coffin


[Farzad Kamangar was a thirty-two-year-old Iranian teacher, poet, journalist, human rights activist, and social worker who was hanged on May 9, 2010. At his execution, he offered chocolates to all the observers.]




I’m sitting at the end of the world

in Yamsa

on a small island

you can walk around

in an hour —

a sufficient time for you to know

the date you are waiting for

is not coming.

fifty years ago, it was bought.

they built some wooden cottages,

a fireplace and an oven

and I arrived there by boat.

it is rainy

at the end of the world.

swans and boats are floating on the water

death does not come here.

I was sitting on the boat

when she, with her green eyes,

was speaking to me about the age of soldier’s boots,

which last more than fifty years in her land,

the fact that she misses me

and loves fire

and blue flames.

the end of the world will not come again

always, there is only one end

and nobody can interpret it.




In Yamsa

nobody speaks his own language

in winter when the lakes are frozen

wolves and humans come here walking

this place was never uninhabited

everything which came here came in its perfection,

your beauty, my impossibility,

and in intensity

language always disappears

one can only point to objects.

people come to Yamsa with abstract nouns

but in the first fire

abstractions and wood burn together

and the taste of chocolate

turns to ash in the mouth

when the chair is pushed away from under the feet of a

hanging man and

absurdity and meaning

both refer to the chocolate wrapper

at the same time the stage is emptied

of the killer and the killed, the viewer and the viewed,

and the cleaner sweeps up the chocolate remains.

sitting at the end of the world

the wind crawls into the fire and all the flames are blue.




Absence is when you can point out

all the attributes of someone

her green eyes

her moonlight skin and her lips which are


but you cannot point at her

or when the woman who lies beside you

does not have a nightmare

that makes the caress of your hands a necessity

this is the reason God is always absent,

whether the chair is pushed out from under my feet

or I sit in Yamsa on a chair

and the you of my poems changes.

In all the world wars

no bomb ever fell at the end of the world

it has never been occupied

no savior ever fit there.

At the end of the world

I am burning papers

where the skin of women and my hands

mingle with decorations

boats row in nothingness

the wind crawls into empty houses

and all the flames are blue.




in Yamsa

time transubstantiates to experience

a day is the distance in feet between newly arrived boats

and never-arriving boats

a year is the distance

measured in hands

it takes my hands to reach your hair

and eternity is taller than the height of a human

the height of a pushed-away chair

when the feet no longer move

and the doctor in charge determines

the rope can be taken away

the rope is taken away

and I get empty in the transubstantiation of boat to boat

hand to hair

and body to memory

I transmute to a place in Yamsa,

a grave, a cradle

where blue flames

are the only burning metaphor which flickers there

just like a date

at the end of the world.




I’m sitting here

in Yamsa

in shadow and reflection

song and the river

tears and the breath of infinity

in a boat which brings me back

to you and my Palestine

to me and your Kurdistan.

arsenic burns blue

lead burns green.

arsenic and lead,

poison and bullet

burn in us

we miss each other

and both are indebted to absence

it is rainy.

the trains are delayed.

In the last station

with a blue umbrella

I’m searching for a woman

with a red umbrella

and green eyes.


[Reprinted from M. Emadi, Standing on Earth, recently published by Phoneme Media, Los Angeles.]


Born in Iran, Mohsen Emadi is the award-winning author of four collections of poetry published in Iran and Spain. He has also translated numerous collections of poetry. Emadi studied Computer Engineering at Sharif University of Technology in Iran and Digital Culture at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland. He is the founder and manager of Ahmad Shamlou’s official website and The House of World Poets, a Persian anthology of world poetry featuring more than five hundred poets from around the world. He was awarded the Premio de Poesía de Miedo in 2010 and IV Beca de Antonio Machado in 2011. Emadi has lived in Iran, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Spain, and is now based in Mexico City.


N.B. Another poem by Mohsen Emadi can be found on Poems and Poetics for July 26, 2016