TWO OLD BURNED BRIDGES
Perhaps he could see the old burned bridge in Isfahan again and grow roses.
March 29, 2002
Effervesant Marc Chagall was in Montparnasse in his studio La Ruche with an artist's
palette on his thumb holding black brushes. He was wearing a white suit with a yellow
vest. He was painting a Qajar Princess dressed in red and white against a green curtain.
In the background was a golden Eiffel Tower with white stars. Above his head was
a vase of white roses and a blue butterfly in front of a white cloud.
It was time to go to Persia. Just before Norooz. The radishes would be fresh and
red piled high with green onions tipped in white. Goldfish would be swimming in plastic
pools for sale and shimmering white fish wet would be piled on yellow wooden planks
in front of the fish shop. Women in black Hejabs would be shopping and men with white
beards would beat the drum. A swarm of flies.
At nine o'clock ignoring everyone's advice I wrote a letter to Saigo Takamori who
lived in Hinokage, population 6,700 and was famous for the Song of The Blue Cloud
Bridge. I invited him to go with me to Isfahan. He had wanted to see Khajoo Bridge,
16th Century Safavid Isfahan Nesfeh Jahan. To cross the old deserted bridge in the
light of candle lamps covered with cloud upon cloud of pale cream river moths swarming
in March mid-night moon.
Grime, sweat and mildew covered us entering Iran. Having disturbed the Spring ghosts
suffering the death of a thousand cuts. We took no photographs of Saigo in Isfahan
in a kimono, his hair tied in a topknot. He was bull-necked, fireplug, dozy-eyed,
very bushy eyebrows, a Samuri in woodblock prints of The Age of the Lion. He said
he was born under an unlucky star. A reclining Buddha in heavy gold braid by the
swollen river by the edge of the bridge.
Crawling we reached the other side of Aeineh Khaneh Park by the Zayandeh Rood River
(eternal river). In blessed patches of shade we plunged into a silent stretch of
the river, green and deep. we sat together naked on a rock and let the sun tease
us to sleep to the happy smiles of people on the bus.
Red and blue roofed houses led to Naqsh-e-Jahan. Saigo wore a summer kimono in Spring
walking quietly with a sword by his side on the highway of myth and legend holding
a folded fan. By Chahar Bagh we scooped a few mouthfuls of sweet-tasting water from
a little brook that trickled among the chenars.
The moon was sinking and fog rolled down through Chehel-Sotoon Palace flickering
over the pool in a garden of roses. The palace was filled with white paper birds
including a young cock the sign of the Sun Goddess. The orange blossoms had been
washed away by rain.
Do you want to pray? The Jom'eh Mosque is open. Are you studying something? The Bridge.
There's nothing to see. In Beheshtzara Cemetery rested the suicide bombers. Blood
sacrifices covered the burial ground. A man as thin as a chopstick with an unlit
cigarette stood by the bridge dressed like a Bakhtiari. Japanese ghosts with no feet
appeared in the shadow of the bridge.
The rain had stopped and a hen clucked. A lighted cigarette rested on the edge of
the table and was burning its way into the bare wood. We smoked poppies in the shadow
of the Blue Mosque turning violet. A rainy night in Nagasaki, the pale apricot.
We wrote a lie on a piece of paper, wrapped it around a stone and tied it with a
piece of twine and dropped it in a dark well. Excessively polite.
Saigo was dressed in a very expensive silk kimono and a jaw full of gold teeth and
a pair of reading specticles on a thin chain. He was in Hasht Behesht. A crow shat
on his head. We continued to Ali-Qapu singing like a yellow canary. Apricot,peach,
cherry, apple, pear and plum trees all blossomed together.
The taxi driver lit a cigarette and followed us into Gheisarieh Bazaar scented with
rose-water perfume, dusty skylight, crowded with Persians. We drank chai and bought
two black and white Bakhtiari carpets. A regular drizzle started. We farted disguised
as Haji Baba and left.
When Saigo returned to Hinokage he started selling frozen french fries from Tazmania.
KFC had been the same price it had been for ten years. He didn't believe them. He
thought it was just a lie.
Perhaps he could see the old burned bridge in Isfahan again and grow roses. It burned
exquisitely flaming in the twilight over the Zayandeh Rood River. The sky was crimson
where the fire raged. He drank green tea.
He truged across the Blue Cloud Bridge looked back at little Hinokage and wished
he could stay there three or four nights. He lit a fire engulfing the Blue Cloud
Bridge in smoke, ink clouds, gray hills, running a fever transmitted by mosquitoes.
His legs and scrotum became extremely enlarged. He grunted and sank his teeth into
a piece of KFC chicken.
He drove slowly along the road to the 16th century Hirosaki castle alone near Mount
Iwaki. There he scrambled up a grassy slope famous for its late-blooming cherries
for apple blossoms in the orchard he committed Hara-Kiri.
I received his last letter written in green ink. It said AZAD!