Where you could hear Jen and Parees whispering
Written and photographed by Rasool Nafisi
March 28, 2001
Abarghu, which I visited last summer in Yazd Province, is considered
more of a pariah than a city. When Iranians say, "So and so has come
from Abarghu," they mean he/she is from a far and desolate place,
a long way from modern civilization. I am finishing a book on Abarghu in
Farsi. Ten segments have already been published in Par
magazine. The following excerpt is a translation from the tenth segment.
At night, angels flew over Abarghu. The sky would come so close to the
Earth that lovers could find their way in the heart of the night and jump
from rooftop to rooftop to visit their yaar. God was near, and in the mysterious
and enchanting desert night, people could hear the whispers of Jen and
Night in the desert was meant to make up for the arduous days, when
people toiled, and animals sought the cool of a wall or tree shade.
Night would fall on the city in three stages. First, at sunset, the
molten-lava skies of desert lands turned the world crimson red. The sky
and lead-colored mountains merged, and those working under the merciless
sun left work and headed home.
Then birds began to perch on treetops, while beasts of prey called from
the heart of the desert to hear answers from their distant cousins in the
dusty town. Neither envied the life of the other. Living in the city, despised
by everyone, was no better than being in the wilderness of the dry desert.
Perhaps the beasts and the domestics both lamented together.
Finally, silence fell on the city. You could hear people talking, babies
crying, and cows mooing. You could hear a distant truck clawing its way
up the mountainous road. You could hear a moth, a survivor of the desert,
travel in the air, deceived by the kerosene lamp's struggling yellow flame.
You could hear the screech of reed pens used by pupils, writing diligently,
with their untamed pens dipped in ink made with sod, sugar, and silk, writing
line after line of Farsi calligraphy, and trying to dry it against the
heat of the lamp.
Falling stars pierced the heart of the night, traveling from nowhere
to nowhere, and those with secret wishes could read from the trajectory
whether or not their wishes would be fulfilled. Most thought about their
children. Would they come home soon from military service, safe and sound?
Were they going to get married soon? Was their next baby going to be a
son? More pious folks saw falling stars as God's fire chasing minor devils,
and sometimes they worried that the devils are so close.
One could hear the throbbing of the Earth's heart, rising and falling.
In the spring peasants touched the rising Earth with their leathern hands
as if she were a pregnant woman.
At the last stage of night, the meager moisture of the desert adorned
the oily leaves of a pomegranate or a birch.
Abarghu lived at night, and labored in daytime. This was all before
electric lights made the night part of the day, and made them both equally
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Rasool Nafisi (B.S., Law, University of Tehran; M.S., Sociology of
Education, Florida State University;Ph.D., Foundations of Education, Florida
State University) is the Discipline Advisor of General Studiesat Strayer
University in Northern Virginia. He is currently working on a book on resecularization
of Iran.He lives in Northern Virginia.