For Forugh Farrokhzad


by LalehGillani

“She is a whore!” My mother’s voice reverberated through the house. “I’ll burn this book!”

“The book isn’t mine, Maman. I borrowed it from a friend. I’ll give it back and never read it,” I lied while sobbing uncontrollably.

“Don’t you dare to bring this filth into my house ever again! Next time, you’ll have to face your father!” replied my mother and threw the book across the room.

I scrambled to pick up the book as it hit me squarely in the face. Although my mother’s immediate regretful inquiries comforted me somewhat, I wasn’t about to let her off the hook that easily. Besides, my father was due to arrive any minute, and I didn’t want him to discover the disgrace befallen our family. So I decided to find solace in the arms of another female figure whose knowledge and understanding rivaled none. On my way out of the house, I crossed paths with my sisters who had congregated on the stairway, listening in disbelieve. None dared to voice that burning question etched into their faces: “What is in that book?”

The book was Forugh Farrokhzad’s Tavalodi Digar…

That morning, during one of my usual strolls up and down the streets surrounding the University of Tehran, I had grudgingly bought Forugh’s Tavalodi Digar because an old shopkeeper talked me into it. His handsome son was watching me from the opposite side of the counter, smiling mischievously. Was he amused by his father’s ability to con innocent patrons? Was he ridiculing my stubborn resistance to what was destined? I would never know the real reason. In a few other occasions, he had attempted to talk to me but had been sadly disappointed. I was interested only in books; boys occupied no space in my world. So I bought the book, shoved it into my backpack, and left, vowing to skip their store from that day forward.

Although the title of the book (Another Birth) was curiously tantalizing, as far as I was concerned all modern poetry was incomprehensible and had no right to be shelved next to Divan-e Hafez, Rubaiyat Khayyam, and Shahnameh-e Ferdowsi. I planned to lose the book somewhere in the bus on my way home. As it came to be, a Good Samaritan could have none of that and handed it back to me before I could escape. I was stuck with Forugh… Well, truth be told, the opposition of prominent female figures in my life was the catalyst to push me into her waiting arms:

“A decent woman doesn’t write about lighting a cigarette in the emptiness of a gap between two lovemaking,” whispered my mentor and professor as she turned bright beet color when confronted by the account of my mother’s reaction to Forugh. I dared not to ask either of them what “lovemaking” was.

Thanks to my mother, since I lived in total sexual ignorance and stupidity, I soon concluded that “lovemaking” was a filthy, despicable act performed by a woman who lacked any redeeming moral values and only when she was absolutely bored. To make matters even worse, after the act of “lovemaking,” if she had the gull to go further, she could light a cigarette, repeat the act, and then write about it! Yes, such was my understanding of “lovemaking” during those formidable years. And before you fall off the chair laughing, let me introduce my mother to you:

My mother, a proudly proclaimed traditional Iranian woman, had made it her sacred duty to personally hand-pick fresh, young, virgin girls for all male creatures in our family. According to my mother’s high standards, maidenhood was both a physical and a mental state. It was not sufficient for a girl to be untouched; her thoughts had to be also pure. Hence, to pass my mother’s test of “freshness,” a virgin girl had to lack any knowledge of male and female sexual organs and the act of sexual intercourse itself. At the same time, my mother justified the sexual escapades of her brothers, sons, and nephews abroad as only a prelude to the exhausting obligations of a husband: Since a man has to teach his innocent, virgin wife everything on their wedding night, he has to learn it himself somewhere, somehow...

Are you still laughing? In any case, let’s get back to Forugh…

Much criticism has befallen Forugh since her first words were published in March of 1955. At first, the literary circles of Iranian society could not stomach a woman’s fantasies and feelings pouring out of the tip of a defiant pen. Then as her poems matured, and her subject matters gained depth, her life style became the talk of the town and the subject of vicious attacks. At the end, she was never revered in life as she is now in death. And sadly enough, another Iranian woman has never risen to carry her literary torch, to follow her poetic footsteps, to break the boundaries of the acceptable. There will never be another Forugh; the deliberate defiance of this “Open Seduction,” though, is for her.

Open Seduction

Translated from Persian (October 8, 2008)

Rose petals on the bed.

On satin sheets,

her legs spread.

When she calls his name, he is still fully dressed.

Seduction is the name of this game;

devotion of a man to the memory of a woman is his claim.

His lips,

his breath,

his touch is what she craves.

But he does not heed her desire to engage.


Between his fingers,

a cigarette is held.

His silhouette

covers the open window as he turns

to walk the distance to the iron clad bed.

He lowers himself to land a kiss.

On her bare legs,

he places a firm hand

while she yearns to seek his lips.


The belt around his waist is not open yet.

The shirt on his back is buttoned to the crest.

She squirms

when he feels her long legs.

The touch of a man is what she craves.

A firm hand,

a slow hand,

he travels the distance between her toes

and her hips.

He needs not to be told how to tease,

how to please

for her release.


The shadow on his face feels rough

to her lips.

A faint smile on his rebel face

drives her over the edge

when he heads back to the window ledge.

The top two buttons on his shirt

open as he bares his chest,

but he does not return to her nest.

He holds back as if he knows

when the time is right,

when the moment is ripe,

when to hold her tight.


He pours Jack Daniels over the ice.

The cubes dance, reflecting the light.

His grip is around the glass

not her thigh,

when their eyes meet,

when they both sigh.


“Come here,” she cries.

Instead, he sips the ice.

Then he whispers “no” just to entice.

She tosses her flaming red hair

into the air

and catches him grin as she pretends not to pout.


The glass is empty now,

and the cloud of smoke will vanish soon.

He watches her

rolling in bed,

moaning with lust.

His face blushes

as she bares her skin

for chivalry is his only sin.


The breeze ruffles the satin sheet

when his hands crawl with force underneath.

He feeds the love bird in the cage,

releasing her through the open window

for her flight.


The buckle on his belt still holds tight.


more from LalehGillani

very nice

by Abarmard on

I would very much prefer reading your original poem in the poetic Persian language.

Forough did reach her high level, more might have not been any better similar to many poets before and after.

Ali P.


by Ali P. on

I enjoyed your article.


Ali P.