189 Steps

This poem first published in the brochure of an international conference of poets called “Resilience of the Human Spirit” held in the Guthrie Centre, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 16-17 September 2006. [original Persian]

I trip down 189 steps [1]
To wash my grey eyes in the blue sea,
And along with green ivy
Reaching out through fences,
I long to touch a woman
Who carries with each step
The sense of my loss.
One: my wife executed in Tehran
Two: my mate leaving me in Venice
Three: my son living between two homes
Four: my sister giving birth in prison
Five: my brother buried in an unmarked grave
Six: my failing eyesight
Seven: my sorrows of exile
When I go from top to bottom
I hitch myself to the clouds
Which sometimes cover the sun
And sometimes leave it naked
When I go up from the bottom
I see my naked suns
Behind dancing women.
At each landing
There are bottles of water
And a black cat is peeking out
From behind a white towel.
I surrender myself
To this sweet fatigue.
I go up ten times
And go down ten times
And at the last steps
Along with my mother’s gaze
I dance down from Masuleh’s rooftops
And free myself in the Caspian sea.
One: the elegy for my wife
Two: the mate I have met
Three: the roots my son found
Four: the books I have written
Five: the years I ran in the Marathon
Six: the day I wore cap and gown
Seven: the home I have found.
189 steps to joy
189 steps to unity
189 steps to my sacrificial altar.
Oh, magic number,
I pray to you
And I wash myself within you.
I am now a Horufi mystic [2]
And I see Nasimi [3]
alive in me.
I stand at the top of stairs
And I raise both of my arms
Looking at the blue sky.
A woman arrives
In blue sweatpants
And tennis shoes.
I show her the altar
And chanting, I retreat.

December 6, 1994
[original Persian]

[1] In Santa Monica, California, near Pacific Coast Highway there are 189 stairs between two small streets on two levels where people `do stairs`.

[2] A member of a mystical sect who believed in the sanctity of numbers and letters in the fifteenth century, Iran.

[3] Imad-Dodin Nasimi (1369-1417) An Azari poet who was executed for his Horufi beliefs.

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