TOASTED IN YAZD
By the weeping cherry tree was my first garden
April 19, 2002
By now it was getting dark, it was all desert now, the road flat and straight.
I opened the window and leaned out to see the stars on my way to Yazd. I decided
that the most promising looking path was the one that led to the river. The sun was
sinking through a blotch of sky the color of squashed persimmon. I wrote a poem that
custom required and jumped into the deep green river. I drowned but my afterlife
My blueprint had already been made in Yazd by Marco Polo in 1250 when he was farting
through customs in the Shir Kuh mountains. In Marco Polo's blueprint I twinkled as
a Persian gardner with Japanese hands designing rock gardens in Yazd.
By the weeping cherry tree was my first garden. The private garden consisted of only
rocks and sand running the length of one side of the house and using old moss covered
rocks instead of rocks heaved directly out of the river. The secret lay in how the
rocks were arranged.
Guests tumbled out of the teahouse in the rain. They could see Pir-e-Sabz out of
the corner of their eyes. Ahuramazda was the trickiest in the courtyard garden that
was found in some old houses and temples, designed to be viewed from three or four
sides. The bathhouse was open behind a red, faded, termeh curtain by a small grove
In my blueprint was a scenic waterfall. A smudge of ink on my cheek represented a
waterfall, though in reality it was just a blue tinted rock on the steps leading
to a small stone platform just below the holy spring of Chak Chak.
I could hear the sound of water falling on the rocks, leaving dark water spots on
the stairs. I lived in Sabae in Fukui prefecture near the coast of the Sea of Japan.
I confined my gardening to Yazd, Fukui, Ishikawa and Gifu.
The home owners who were most serious about their gardens lived in Yazd with white
finches in bamboo cages. Some of them would spend a small fortune on a collection
of rare rocks from Pir-e-Sabz or Shir Kuh. Some had orchards of pomegranate trees
which perfumed Masjed-e-Jame in the 14th century behind clay colored walls made with
sun-dried bricks without running out of incense.
Karim Khan Zand looked out of his stained glass window in Spring at pelting rain
on his roses in Bagh-e-Dowlatabad walled garden. I sometimes helped him plant geraniums
in pots, before he lost his eyeballs in Kerman.
Pickled culture led one Yazdi to create his own garden by bringing an old building
near the Chahar Suq Bazaar brick by brick to make a park. Roses bloomed the first
year then white iris. Yazdi's drank glasses of grated ice with cherry syrup.
A light rain was falling on my neighbors roof covered with dried tomatoes. I spread
a carpet over the takhte to sit and drink chai. Persian was spoken softly through
the night filled with stars, pashmak and pasheh.
A sandlewood tree stood outside Alexander's prison. Many were beheaded in Khan Square
or buried up to their necks in the earth praying to the God of Light This led to
a more humane way of lopping off the head with a sword and nailing the head to an
old wooden door. Life was tranquil in the garden of sand and rock. I picked at dried
fish and drank a bowl of beancurd soup.
Surrounded by desert sand, the rock gardens by the ancient silk road appeared as
the old imperial gardens, a rare arrangement of the space between the rocks. It could
easily be photographed with a yellow throwaway cardboard camera, then zipped tight
inside my pocket.
Like a sick dog I discovered that a paper chopstick wrapper that I had picked up
in a restaurant, was relatively rich in poetry of Khayyam.
Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide,
And wash my body whence the life has died,
And in a Windingsheet of Vine leaf wrapt,
So bury me by some sweet Garden-side.
With the help of ancient warriors still in their graves, a shah or two, we covered
the town of Light and eternal Fire with golden straw and in a final moment of glory
the silk worm escaped and the town of Yazd atashkadeh swirled into the sky and burned
to soft charcoal ash.
It grew dark. I lit a cigarette. The lighted match brought back fond memories of
I walked away through the space between the rocks in the shadow of wind towers.
There were no photographers, no cameras, no Shahs, only sand and rock the true garden.
I went to take a bath.
...I was toast.