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I recently finished a book – Song of a Captive Bird by Jazmin Darznik – which introduced me to the controversial Iranian poet, Forough Farrokhzad. The book was wonderful – an intricate imagining of the poet’s coming of age and too-short life. Forough lived in Iran from her birth in 1935 to her death in 1967, and in that time managed to spark the imagination and the anger of a country on the brink of a massive cultural and political revolution. Her poetry, when read in this context, becomes far more potent.


All my being is a dark verse
that repeats you to the dawn
of unfading flowering and growth.
I conjured you in my poem with a sigh
and grafted you to water, fire, and trees.

Perhaps life is a long avenue
a woman with a basket crosses every day;
perhaps life is a rope
with which a man hangs himself from a tree,
or is a child returning home from school.

Maybe life is the act of lighting a cigarette
in the listless pause between lovemaking,
or the vacant glance of a passerby who tips
his hat and says, Good morning!
                                            with a meaningless smile.

Perhaps life is a choked moment where my gaze
annihilates itself inside in the pupils of your eyes—
I will mingle that sensation with my grasp
of the moon and comprehension of darkness.

In a room the size of loneliness,
my heart’s the size of love.
It contemplates its simple pretexts for happiness:
the beauty of the flowers’ wilting in a vase,
the sapling you planted in our garden,
and the canaries’ song—the size of a window.

Alas, this is my lot.
This is my lot.
My lot is a sky that can be shut out
by the mere hanging of a curtain.
My lot is descending a lonely staircase
to something rotting and falling apart in its exile.
My lot is a gloomy stroll in a grove of memories,
and dying from longing for a voice
that says: I love your hands.

I plant my hands in the garden soil—
I will sprout,
I know, I know, I know.
And in the hollow of my ink-stained palms
swallows will make their nest.

I will adorn my ears with twin-cherry sprigs,
wear dahlia petals on my nails.
There is an alley where boys who once loved me still stand
with the same tousled hair, thin necks, and scrawny legs,
contemplating the innocent smiles of a young girl
swept away one night by the wind.

There is an alley my heart has stolen
from my childhood turf.

A body traveling along the line of time
impregnates time’s barren cord,
and returns from the mirror’s feast
intimate with its own image.
This is how one dies, and another remains.

No seeker will ever find pearls from a stream
that pours into a ditch.

I know a sad little fairy who lives in the sea
and plays the wooden flute of her heart tenderly,
tenderly . . .
A sad small fairy who dies at night with a kiss
and is reborn with a kiss at dawn.

by Forough Farrokhzad, translated by Sholeh Wolpe

She holds her hair up with only
two chopsticks and a bobby pin.
Think Atlas. Think shoulders.
When your sadness starts to feast,
she carries the light down from the
mountain and hands it to you,
tells you to set it on fire.
Think Prometheus. Think savior.
On Sunday, she steps out of the shower
and you don’t think you’ve ever seen
anything more beautiful than the way
she walks towards you with a towel
on her head, water clinging to her
like there is nowhere else it would rather be.
Think Aphrodite. Think sea foam.
You love her like mythology.
You love her like the impossible stories
of Gods and monsters.
When she sings, think fairies.
Think mermaids. Think hymns.
She is the face of the river
that Narcissus fell in love with,
confusing hers for his own.
She is Medusa’s fury,
Athena’s strength,
Achelois’ healing.
You are kissing her in a crowded
restaurant and it feels like praying.
You are watching her
instead of the meteor shower
and you don’t even notice.

~ Caitlyn Siehl from What We Buried

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don’t hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else’s can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o’clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

~ Billy Collins



Already his abdomen was sculpted, and already
the thin trail descending from beneath his belly button.
Even now it is difficult to explain it. I was, after all,
only 7; I didn’t even know what Turkish meant.


In the dead of winter, which only meant
certain flowers had ceased blooming on the island,
we had driven up into the mountains
to “take the waters,” as our parents put it.


Our parents’ instructions were simple: they would be
in one room, our sister in another, my brother
and I in yet another. Down the dark hallways
as dark as tunnels, down through the strong smell


of minerals and seawater, the attendants led us
to our rooms. What was that smell? Sulfur?
Aluminum? There was the smell of salt, but it
was not the salt of the earth, not the sea itself.


The old man told us not to sit in the water for more
than fifteen minutes at a time, to drink lots of cold water,
to scrub the salts into our skin, to take care of each other.
And then, he left us. We took off our clothes, did it


without thinking. “You get in first,” is all he said, his voice
sounding more like my father’s, his voice having changed
almost a year ago. His body had changed, too.
Sitting in the pool, my thoughts began to swim


in the vapors, the steam, I felt nauseated.
I wanted not to look at him. I wanted to look at the tile:
blue and blue-white with the depiction of a terrible vine
twisting and creeping around the tops of the walls.


When he got out and lay on the tile next to the pool,
his abdomen was already sculpted, and the thin trail . . .
He knew I watched him, and he loved the admiration.
When I finally got out, my head dizzy, my heart racing


from the heat, I lay myself down next to him. He scrubbed
my back with a rough sponge, pulled me against his chest
as he scrubbed behind my ears and under my arms. There,
in the steam, I was cleaner than I would ever be again.


C.  Dale Young, “Clean” from Torn. Copyright © 2011 by C.  Dale Young.


C. Dale Young is a San Francisco based medical practitioner and professor of writing. He is the author of The Day Underneath the Day (TriQuarterlyBooks, 2001), The Second Person (Four Way Books, 2007), Torn (Four Way Books, 2011) and The Halo (Four Way Books, 2016).


Always for the first time
Hardly do I know you by sight
You return at some hour of the night to a house at an angle to my window
A wholly imaginary house
It is there that from one second to the next
In the inviolate darkness
I anticipate once more the fascinating rift occuring
The one and only rift
In the facade and in my heart
The closer I come to you
In reality
The more the key sings at the door of the unknown room
Where you appear alone before me
At first you coalesce entirely with the brightness
The elusive angle of a curtain
It’s a field of jasmine I gazed upon at dawn on a road in the vicinity of Grasse
With the diagonal slant of its girls picking
Behind them the dark falling wing of the plants stripped bare
Before them a T-square of dazzling light
The curtain invisibly raised
In a frenzy all the flowers swarm back in
It is you at grips with that too long hour never dim enough until sleep
You as though you could be
The same except that I shall perhaps never meet you
You pretend not to know I am watching you
Marvelously I am no longer sure you know
You idleness brings tears to my eyes
A swarm of interpretations surrounds each of your gestures
It’s a honeydew hunt
There are rocking chairs on a deck there are branches that may well scratch you in the forest
There are in a shop window in the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Two lovely crossed legs caught in long stockings
Flaring out in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
There is
By my leaning over the precipice
Of your presence and your absense in hopeless fusion
My finding the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time

André Breton

I rarely get smitten with lyrics… usually it’s Leonard Cohen that does this to me, but I found a new one. New to me, anyway, since I tend to keep my head under a rock when it comes to main stream radio tunes.  I love these lyrics (and the song) so much, I just can’t help myself, I need to post it here.

Boys workin’ on empty
Is that the kinda way to face the burning heat?
I just think about my baby
I’m so full of love I could barely eat
There’s nothing sweeter than my baby
I’d never want once from the cherry tree
‘Cause my baby’s sweet as can be
She give me toothaches just from kissin’ me

When, my, time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

That’s when my baby found me
I was three days on a drunken sin
I woke with her walls around me
Nothin’ in her room but an empty crib
And I was burnin’ up a fever
I didn’t care much how long I lived
But I swear I thought I dreamed her
She never asked me once about the wrong I did

When, my, time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

When, my, time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

My baby never fret none
About what my hands and my body done
If the Lord don’t forgive me
I’d still have my baby and my baby would have me
When I was kissing on my baby
And she put her love down soft and sweet
In the lowland plot I was free
Heaven and hell were words to me

When, my, time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

When, my, time comes around
Lay me gently in the cold dark earth
No grave can hold my body down
I’ll crawl home to her

O Golden Fleece she is where she lies tonight
Trammelled in her sheets like midsummer on a bed,
Kisses like moths flitter over her bright
Mouth, and, as she turns her head,
All space moves over to give her beauty room.

Where her hand, like a bird on the branch of her arm,
Droops its wings over the bedside as she sleeps,
There the air perpetually stays warm
Since, nested, her hand rested there. And she keeps
Under her green thumb life like a growing poem.

My nine-tiered tigress in the cage of sex
I feed with meat that you tear from my side
Crowning your nine months with the paradox:
The love that kisses with a homicide
In robes of red generation resurrects.

The bride who rides the hymeneal waterfall
Spawning all possibles in her pools of surplus,
Whom the train rapes going into a tunnel,
The imperial multiplicator nothing can nonplus:
My mother Nature is the origin of it all.

At Pharoah’s Feast and in the family cupboard,
Gay corpse, bright skeleton, and the fly in amber,
She sits with her laws like antlers from her forehead
Enmeshing everyone, with flowers and thunder
Adorning the head that destiny never worried.

George Barker (1913-1991)


I can feel she has got out of bed.
That means it is seven a.m.
I have been lying with eyes shut,
thinking, or possibly dreaming,
of how she might look if, at breakfast,
I spoke about the hidden place in her
which, to me, is like a soprano’s tremolo,
and right then, over toast and bramble jelly,
if such things are possible, she came.
I imagine she would show it while trying to conceal it.
I imagine her hair would fall about her face
and she would become apparently downcast,
as she does at a concert when she is moved.
The hypnopompic play passes, and I open my eyes
and there she is, next to the bed,
bending to a low drawer, picking over
various small smooth black, white,
and pink items of underwear. She bends
so low her back runs parallel to the earth,
but there is no sway in it, there is little burden, the day has hardly begun.
The two mounds of muscles for walking, leaping, lovemaking, lift toward the east—what can I say?
Simile is useless; there is nothing like them on earth.
Her breasts fall full; the nipples
are deep pink in the glare shining up through the iron bars of the gate under the earth where those who could not love press, wanting to be born again.
I reach out and take her wrist
and she falls back into bed and at once starts unbuttoning my pajamas.
Later, when I open my eyes, there she is again,
rummaging in the same low drawer.
The clock shows eight. Hmmm.
With huge, silent effort of great,
mounded muscles the earth has been turning.
She takes a piece of silken cloth
from the drawer and stands up. Under the falls
of hair her face has become quiet and downcast,
as if she will be, all day among strangers,
looking down inside herself at our rapture.



We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.

And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.

That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.

O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.

Ars Poetica

I have always aspired to a more spacious form
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
and would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to sublime agonies.

In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us,
so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light, lashing his tail.

That’s why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion,
though its an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel.
It’s hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,
when so often they’re put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.

What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,
who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues,
and who, not satisfied with stealing his lips or hand,
work at changing his destiny for their convenience?

It’s true that what is morbid is highly valued today,
and so you may think that I am only joking
or that I’ve devised just one more means
of praising Art with thehelp of irony.

There was a time when only wise books were read
helping us to bear our pain and misery.
This, after all, is not quite the same
as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.

And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.
People therefore preserve silent integrity
thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

What I’m saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.

Today, I read this, and it is beautiful, and it made me feel all sorts of things, so here it is, reblogged from Rebelle Society. Writing by Verity Richards.


Here it is: His Hands..


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