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
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.
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.
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 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.