Forough and me

People here sometimes ask me how I came to things Iranian, and this is a difficult question to respond to. Because one never comes to things like this; these things always come to one. And if I explained how Iran came to me, those who had to ask me would never believe me, and those who would believe me never ever ask.

Nonetheless, I shall single out two “events”. The first one was September, 11, 2001, when I like many of my “hamvatans”, looking deeply into the flames, began to ponder the “Muslim world.” But my research led me inexorably to Iran, as though it were a road I’d trodden often long before. So throughout most of 2003, while my “progressive” friends and colleagues were all screaming Iraq, I was already singing Iran.

The second “event” which crystallized this evolving path for me, was when, while web searching at the end of ’03, I chanced upon a poem in translation. I did not know at that time who the author was, or whether it was even a man or a woman. I only knew that this voice of movement, majesty and light was an old old voice, and my voice too, and that I needed to learn this language to come home. If only just to read that poem in the original.

And that is what I did, and found to my surprise that the translation that had originally inspired me was sadly lacking in many ways. And so I determined to write my own. And so I did, and here is what I wrote. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Michael Hillman, for it was his translation of Forough’s “Tanhaa Sedaast keh Mimunad” that opened for me so many doors. But once we allow the doors to be opened, the wind will carry us wheresoever she wishes.


by Forough Farrokhzad
Translation by Robin Jayne Goldsmith

Why should I stop, why?

The birds have gone off in search of the blue direction

The horizon is vertical it is vertical

and movement fountain-like

and at the borders of insight

shining planets spin

Earth at altitude reaches recurrence

and air wells change

to connecting tunnels

and day is an expanse far too big

for the limited imagination of newspaper worms

Why should I stop?

The road runs through the capillaries of life

Surrounding conditions on the uterus ship of moon

will kill of all decaying cells

and in sun’s chemical space after rising

there is only sound

sound absorbing the particles of time.

Why should I stop?

What can a swamp be

What but the breeding ground of putrid teeming bugs

Bloated, wind-bagged bodies jot down the morgue freezer’s thoughts

The coward has hidden his manlessness in the blackness

and the roach…ah

when the cockroach speaks

why should I stop?

Collaboration of leaden letters is pointless

collaboration of lead type

It will never redeem the base idea

I am of the noble lineage of the trees

Breathing stagnant air is tiresome.

A poor little bird who’d died once counseled me, commit the flight to


The fullest extent of powers is fusion

fusing with the sun’s bright essence

and pouring into the intelligence of light.

It is natural for windmills to rot

Why should I stop?

I hold the unripe wheat sheaves

to my breasts

and feed them milk.

Sound, sound, only sound

the sound of water’s clear asking to flow

the sound of starlight’s oozing onto the pistil sheath of soil

the sound of clotting of meaning’s sperm

and amplification of the one mind of love

sound, sound, voice of sound, it is sound alone that remains.

In the land of the short-statured

standards of measurement

have always orbited the axis of zero

Why should I stop?

I obey the four elements only

and the ratification of my heart’s constellation

lies beyond the jurisdiction of the municipal government of the blind.

To me the long yowl of barbarity in the beast’s sex organs: so what

or the worm’s pathetic movement in its vacuum sac of meat

The bloodline of the roses has pledged me unto life.

Do you understand ‘bloodline of the roses’? 

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