If your son asks you When was the best day of the Revolution What will you tell him?
Will you say instantly: February 11, 1979? The day you opened the gate of Evin Prison alongside the people And saw huge colanders of steaming rice in the kitchen Which old jailors had rinsed for their lunch And new jailors cooked for their dinner, And you with your lover Ezzat Tabaian Stepped into a labyrinth of solitary cells And for a few endless minutes Were trapped behind an electronic door From where Ezzat three winters later Was sent to the execution field.
Perhaps you will say: January 16, 1979 When the Shah fled Iran for the second time And the statue-breaking rebels at a Tehran square Dismounted his father from his horse And in the dark, you picked up a piece of his hat From the ground as a keepsake And told Ezzat at your side That you did not know if you were awake or asleep Just as the night when you made love For the first time And you rubbed your eyes in disbelief.
No! No! You miss neither of these two days Because the new prison is more horrific than the old one And the new tyrant more ruthless than the previous one. You miss only one night When in October 14, 1977 At the fifth night of Ten Nights of Poetry With your novelist friend Hooshang Golshiri You walked to the Garden of Goethe in the rain To listen to “Songs of Prison” of Saeed Soltanpour Who had just been released from prison Roaring like a wounded panther.
In those bright ten nights Sixty members of the Iranian Writers’ Association Gathered from four corners of the country in Tehran To speak of truth and beauty polyphonically. Omran Salahi read a poem in Turkish And Tahereh Safarzadeh an ode to Islam. Neither the first enraged the Persian speakers Nor the second provoked the leftists. Thousands and thousands of lovers of poetry Had gathered there from across the country To testify that poetry Demands freedom of expression.
In those ten bright nights Did the novelist Islam Kazemiyeh know that two decades later He would suffocate himself in Paris? Did the scholar Mostafa Rahimi foresee That years after suffering torture and prison He would jump off the roof of his house? Did the novelist Behazin predict that after arrest He would incriminate himself on state TV? Did the poet Saeed Soltanpour know That on the night of his wedding He would be arrested and executed soon after? Was the poet Siavash Kasrai aware that at his end He would perish powerless in Kabul…no, in Vienna? In the Nights of Poetry the discourse was freedom and equality And nobody spoke of the “divine” law of stoning. No one knew that on January 7, 1978 The clergy would raise their flag in Qom And gradually the slogan of Islamic Rule Would replace the slogan of Housing and Freedom.
Come, return to the Garden of Goethe’s Poetry Sit again under rain-laden trees, Oblivious to riot police Talking to each other on their walkie-talkies Behind the walls of the Garden, And listen to Maryam, the daughter of the translator Mohammad Qazi Who is reading her father’s speech for you. Alas! A surgeon’s knife had severed her father’s vocal cords But thankfully did not remove the essence of his speech.
Come, return to the house of science and art And regard only the heart of the individual As the House of Faith. Come, and from the refreshing Garden of Goethe Return to the best days of the Revolution. Perhaps in this journey Your son will accompany you.
Majid Naficy is author of many books in Persian and in English, including Father & Son, published by Red Hen.