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The Footsteps of Water - Sedaye Paye Ab
Poet: Sohrab Sepehri
Translator: Maryam Dilmaghani
May 4, 2008

Sohrab Sepehri at Hyde Park, London 1969

Sohrab Sepehri 

Sedaye Paye Ab (Persian)
The Footsteps of Water (English)
Ahle Kashanam (Fanoos Band song with Sohrab Sepehri poem)
More Fanoos Band songs with Sohrab Sepehri poems (IPC Multimedia)

The Footsteps of Water
Poet: Sohrab Sepehri
Translator: Maryam Dilmaghani

I am from Kashan*,
I am doing fine:
make a modest living,
have some wits, some talent.

I have a mother better than blooming green leaves
And honest friends,
clear like waterfalls of some remote corners of this earth.

And I have a God,
A God who lives close-by my house,
Between these oleanders in the garden,
Or on the face of the water in the pool
Or in the veins of the trees.

I am a Muslim
My qiblah is a rose
My prayer book is as vast as the arms of rivers,
As bright as the face of the sun.
And I pray over the expansion of the meadow.

I cleanse my heart
in the stream of lights,
flowing from wide open windows.
And how full my prayer is
with the moon, with clouds,
with colourful rainbows.
But yet you can see the rocks,
the sea and the stones
through the soul of my words.

I cleanse my heart with the stream of lights
flowing from wide open windows.
And I pray whenever the breeze calls up,
from the green heights of the willows
from behind the dancing mass of the grass
or over the flying crowd of the waves.

My God lives by the rivers
Lives under the bunch of acacias
My God, light as the breeze, flows from turf to turf,
from heart to heart, from town to town.

I am from Kashan.
I paint for living.
Once in a while
I make a cage with paper and paint
And I sell it to you
to listen to the song of the caged lily
whenever you feel lonely.
Well, I dream…now I dream,
Because I know:
My doodles are lifeless.
Yes, I know, the lake of my painting
has no swimming fish.

I am from Kahsan
Who knows,
I may descend from a tree in Delhi,
Or a pottery jar lost in the hills of Silak*,
Or a young prostitute from Samarqand.

My father is lying dead now,
Right behind a few comes and goes of the migrating birds
Behind a few blows of snow,
behind a few hot summer nights on the roof,
My father is lying dead now
for some time.

When my father died, the sky was blue.
My mother suddenly woke up.
My sister became pretty.
When my father died
the soldiers wrote poetry.

And then the farmer asked me:
“How many melon would you take?”
And I replied:
“Don’t you sell the clusters of peace
to hang in one's heart?”

My father could paint.
My father could make Tar* that he could also play.
He had a pleasing handwriting too.

Our garden was on the right side of the shades of wisdom
Our garden was the meeting point of the sense and the plants
Our garden was the intersection of sight, border and mirror.
Maybe our garden was an arc from the green circle of paradise.

And there:
I was chewing the unripe fruit of God in my every dream.
I was drinking cold water without the ice of philosophy.
I was picking mulberries without the ladder of science.

The fertile heart of the pomegranate always laid
within the fountain of my yen.
The wings of doves always called
my fleeing mind to another lengthy trip.
And sometimes loneliness would come
and stick her cold cheek to the clean glass of the window,
And then the passion would arrive
holding my shoulders in her warm hands
setting free again my sense of that endless play.

And then life was something
Like a shower on the New Year’s Eve.
Like a poplar tree and the sparrows in his arms.
Life was then only a room full of dolls, of toys and of lights.
Life was like a train heading towards freedom and laugh
Life was then a vast sky of songs.

The child slowly moved
fading in the blizzard of butterflies,
crickets and sands.
And I bit by bit packed
leaving that dreamy land.
My heart was full of grief
grief for all the lost butterflies
in the sand storm of time.

I went to the gathering of the world
To the turf of sorrow

To the garden of mystics
To the ornamented tower of science,
And up to the ladder of religion,
Down to the lane of doubt,
Beyond the cool breeze of ease,
To the moist misty night of kindness.
And once I soared away to the visit of someone
at the glowing edge of love.

I went, I went
I went until the woman emerged.
I went, I went
To the light of delight,
To the silence of yearning,
To the thick sound of solitude.

And I saw things on this earth:
I met a child who smelt the moon every night.
I saw a broken cage with the lights swinging in its four corners,
and a ladder set next to a wooden wall
and love was stepping up to the heavens from its side.

I got to know a woman crushing light in her blender,
cooking a tender dish for the lunch.
I saw a beggar making door to door asking for canary’s songs.
And a vagabond praying in front of a half-eaten melon in the park.

I saw a sheep eating colourful kites,
I saw a donkey cogitating on the fate of the grass,
And I saw a cow so stuffed in the stable of advice.
I saw a poet who addressed the flowers with “Your Highness”.

Oh…I read a book its words made from pieces of crystal
And I touched a paper that felt like the cool nights of spring
I went to a museum that had no tree around,
I went to a mosque far from waterfalls,
And I saw a priest, falling sick, holing a jar full of queries.

Oh…and I saw a foal carrying bags of handwritten essays
And a camel trekking with empty baskets of travel guides
And a mystic running so fast to catch up with his devotion hymn.

I watched the trains
I watched a train carrying containers of light,
I watched a train moving with weighty trunks of dogma,
And I watched another leaving with void boxes of politics,
And I came across a train transporting seeds, songs and sights
to a remote shore.

Yes, I saw things on this earth:
A plane too high in the sky
Just as high as letting you see the ground from its windows:

The dance of flowers in the wind,
The colourful spots on the butterfly's wings,
A frog playing with his picture in the pool,
A fly fleeing alone in a forsaken lane,
And the blazing longing of sparrows in the shade of willows,
And the maturity of the golden rays of sun
on the silken back of a passer.
And I saw a doll making love
to the fading shadow of the dawn.

Oh…I counted the stairs reaching to the forest of flesh
To the pond of alcohol that has fermented fast
To the rule of roses that gone bad
To the knowledge of the arithmetic of life.

And I counted the stairs up to the roof of salvation,
up to the dais of lights.
And my mother down there
was washing a vase in the memory of rivers.

And you could see the town,
With its face of geometric shapes
of stone, of cement and of metal bars.
And plenty of bus and cars with no pigeon on their roof,
And blooming flowers on sale,
A child busy writing on his school’s walls
Another hitting his father’s prayer book with a piece of fruit
And a goat drinking water from a lake
in a torn geography carte.
And you would see a balcony
with restless bras hanging on a red rope.

And the wheels in hope of a broken van
The van in hope of a resting man
A man in hope of an end,
the vain hope of an end.

From the heights
Love was visible, waves were visible,
Snow was there, friendship as well.
Words were standing still on every cross
maybe waiting for the redeemer to come...

The water was there with spotless pictures in its heart.
Oh…and the shady place of cells in the veil of blood,
in the flood of life.
And the dawn of human soul
And the season of abundance of female
And at the end in the overtaking scent of solitude.

And hope,
You could see the hope
Within every surge of the breeze from the mouth of summer.

And the journeys we took…
The journey of a seed to the height of a tree,
The journey of vines from walls to windows,
The journey of the moon to the still water of the pool
And the blow of flowers from the gloom of soil.

And the jump…
The jump of events over the sense
over the sight, far above the reach of words.

And the battles we fought…
The battle of a tear with the desire of light,
The battle of stairs with ascending mass of the sun,
The battle of lonely hours with the advent of songs,
The battle of pomegranate with teeth,
The battle of empty hands with the weight of rosaries.
And the attacks we endured…
The attack of the mosques on the ground of devotion,
The attack of winds on the innocence of soap bubbles,
The attack of butterflies on the posters on the walls,
The attack of marching band of crickets
on the construction workers,
The attack of pens on printed sheets,
And the attack of words on a poet’s jaws.

And the triumphs we rejoiced …
The triumph of a poet over the frozen army of a century,
The triumph of passer over the blocked gates of a garden,
The triumph of the expansion of two hands over a shady lane,
The triumph of four horses made of sticks
over metallic face of a town,
The triumph of two dolls and three balls
over the blankness of the New Year’s Eve.

And the murders witnessed…
The murder of a toy on the revolted sheets of a bed,
The murder of a tale by the heavy mass of a nap,
The murder of despair by the dawn of a song,
The murder of the moonlight by blazing neon,
The murder of willow over the words of mayor,
The murder of a poet by the thorns of a rose.

And all that is on the earth was visible:
The order was hiking in Greece,
The owls were singing on the tower of Babel,
The wind, spinning in Khaibar*, was pushing sands to the East,
On a peaceful lake a sailboat was carrying freshly cut flowers to the North,
And in Banares an eternal light was burning above every door.

I saw people,
I saw towns,
I saw meadows, peaks, mountains,
The light and the dark:
I saw the plants in the light
And I saw them again in the dark.
I saw the beasts in the light,
And I saw them again in the dark.
And I saw men moving from light to dark
And moving from dark to the instance of lights.

I am from Kashan,
But my town in not Kashan.
My town got lost some day.
And I tasked
with excitement though sometimes sad
To build myself only a home
on the other side of the night.

And in this home
How close I am to the moist anonymity of the moss...
I can hear the breathings of the soil, the heartbeat of the stones.

I can hear the noise of night when it falls off from the leaves.
And I can hear the sharp noise of the day
coughing right behind the trees,
And the footsteps of water within every tear of the rocks,
And the clear sound of solitude in each budging of the doors.

And oh…I hear love changing her skin,
under the weakening light of the moon,
And I hear the excited call of the wings for the flight.

And I can listen to the cry of remorse
that cracks under the expansion of soul.
And I listen to chant of blood flowing in the flowers’ veins,
And the heartbeat of the sun next to the nest of doves
And also the pounds of night on the dawn of winter.

I can hear the song of my life:
The journey of oleanders in the rivers of mind,
The vague figure of the truth in the horizons of eyes,
The soft sound of females flying over the clouds,
And the footsteps of faith in the lone lane of joy,
And the song of rain played on the eyelids of love,
Played on the sad days of youth,
On the bleeding heart of pomegranates.

And I listen,
I listen to the chant of fleeting delights, of passing beauties
To the chant of memories set in the hands of the wind…

I feel so close to the first nights of the earth,
I take the pulse of flowers.
Oh…I am so familiar with the moist fate of water
With the green habit of trees.

My soul flows in the direction of rebirth of matter,
Oh… my soul is so young.
My soul sometimes gets so excited that it coughs.

My soul has nothing left to do,
So it counts the drops of rain, the cracks of walls.
My soul sometimes exists as intensely as stones
in an old route.

I have never come across two pines in fight,
And I have never seen a willow
selling its shielding arms to the earth.
And the elm-tree is setting free of charge.
the cool space within its leaves for the crows.

Wherever there is a leave
I feel inspired, I feel alive.
The thorns of wild flowers has bathed me
in their dews of absolute life.

Like the wings of the butterflies
I know the weight of sunrise.
Like a flower in the wind
I can hear the melody of growth.
Oh…like a basket heavy with fruits
I spin in the fever of arrival.

I am like n empty bar at the borders of boredom.
And like an edifice off the shore:
I stand watching the eternal appeal of heavens
For the revolting crowd of water.

And I aspire in my heart
for so many suns, so many ties
and the feel of reaching to infinity.

I can be content with a bite of apple.
I can be content with the perfume of mint,
I am content with the light of mirrors,
and with only an honest friend.

I do not laugh at the blast of balls,
I do not laugh if a sage talks about
dividing the moon into halves.

I recognize the sound of the friction of quails' wings,
I recognize the footsteps of goats and deer,
I know so well where the clusters of rhubarb can grow,
And when partridge is about to arrive,
And when the eagle may die.

I know dreams of deserts of the bright face of the moon,
I know about the feel of death in the branch of yearning,
And the sense of delight in the stem of love.

Life is a pleasant rite.
Life is covered by feathers and wings,
Growing as vast as the silhouette of death.
Life has leaps as high as the summit of love.
Life is really not something that one can forget
on the obscure shelf of habits.

Life is a grasping hand that picks,
Life is the taste of the first harvest of figs
in the bitter mouth of summer.
Life is the depth of trees in the eyes of insects,
Life is the adventure of a moth in the darkened air,
Life is the strange sense of a migrating bird.

Life is a train’s siren
piercing into the dreams of a bridge.
Life is seeing the glow of a garden
from a barred window in a flight.
Life is the news of landing on the lonesome moon,
Life is the thought of smelling flowers
on the soil of another sphere.

Life is washing a stained vase,
Life is finding a blemished coin on the way,
Life is the square root of mirrors,
Life is a flower to the power of infinity,
Life is the product of earth and the pounds of our hearts,
Life is the simple geometry of breathing.

Wherever I live, it does not matter:
I'll always own the sky,
I'll always own the window and air,
love and light, earth and water.
So who cares if sometimes the leaves of solitude
may grow all around.

I do not understand
why they say that horse is a gorgeous animal,
And doves are gentle,
And why nobody keeps a crow in a cage,
And why rose is the most sought-after plant...
I washed my eyes, I see otherwise.
And I must wash the words:
Words should be the mere sense of wind,
The true essence of rain…

And we must close umbrellas,
We must stay under the stroke of drops of rain.
And we must take, all together,
the mind, the memory and the heart
to the rite of descending water.

And we must make friends under this chaste shower,
And may we look for love under the downpour of water,
And may we make love there,
And I know we can plant lilies,
we can sing elegies,
we can write poetries,
with its blue rhyme.
Yes, we must play the game of life in the rain.

Life is being endlessly dampened,
Life is bathing in the lake of present.

Let’s get undressed,
I hear the song of streams,
The water is so close-by!

And let’s savour the birth of lights,
Let’s slip into the deer’s absolute night,
Let’s weigh the silent sleep of the village,
Let’s learn the warmth of nest of pelicans,
And let’s not step on the rules of moss,
And let’s still open our mouth
whenever we encounter the beauty of the full moon.

And we must not blame night for the fatigue of lights,
And may we understand the thought of glow-worms
about the green confines.

May we arrive with hands holing empty baskets,
And pick our share of brightened greens, glowing reds
and shining lights.

And may we enjoy bread and cheese every morning,
While we are planting trees within our words, our greetings,
And may we be able to still throw the seed of silence
on the ground of talks,
and walk.

And may we not read the books that do not let the breeze to come in,
And the notes that do not let the dews to stay within,
And the tomes that set the cells on the two dimensions of deceit.

And why would we ask the flies to leave the nature alone?
Why would we ask the wolves to drop out of the sight?
And why would we be sure that worms did not make any
difference in our lives.

And may we believe that without death
we could be lost in an eternal quest.

And let me tell you,
The reason of flight is set on the shoulders of lights,
And the coral is born over the prayerful dreams of the seas.

And let me tell you that if we would not ask where we were
we could have sensed the fresh perfume of hyacinths
by our feet.

And we can forget about searching the fountain of fortune,
And we can never question
why the heart of truth is coloured with deep blue.

And we can forget what the fathers of our fathers have done.
As I think that behind our steps there will not be life,
And behind our steps the birds no more sing,
And behind our steps the breeze stands still,
And behind our steps the windows are closed,
the pines are asleep.

Behind our steps the sands sit on the face of all windmills.
Yes, what is behind is the fatigue of the past,
And there the memory of waves
land in the closing shells of sloth.

I would walk straight till the seas
And I would give away my net to the hands of waves.
And I would try to catch the freshness of the blues in return.

And I would pick a small stone from the shore,
And I would try to grasp the grey weight of reality.

And let’s not blame the moon if we have a burning fever:

Sometimes in fever I saw that the moon steps down,
and hands can reach the gates of heavens,
And the canary sing better.
And when I had a wound on my feet I learned more
About the texture of the soil.
And when I was sick
I felt the expansion of flowers around my bed,
And the thickening of oranges
the widening span of the torch.

And let’s not fear death,
Death is not the end point of a dove's flight,
Death is not the reversal of the journey of a moth,
Death flows in the mind of acacias,
Death lives behind the peaceful shell of our thoughts,
Death talks about the dawn for the spirit of the darkened town,
Death may be tasted along a ripe cluster of grape,
Death can be sung in a soulful voice.

And death is behind the striking beauty of the butterflies,
Death is picking mint in the garden just close-by,
Death may be drinking vodka
in a bar two blocks away your house,
And at time it is sitting staring at us with frowning eyes.
And we fill our lungs with his grey breath.

And I would not close the door on the face of fate
If I hear a strange noise from behind the blinds.

Let’s pull the shades away,
And expose the sense to the invasion of breeze, light and air,
And set the wits free to sit wherever it wants,
And allow the instincts to play, even barefoot,
along the swift course of seasons, along the route,
And permit the solitude to sing its song, to write it tale,
to wander pointlessly around.

Oh…let’s be just simple,
Let’s be simple in the bank and in the park.

We may not get to unearth the mystery of the rose,
I suspect we can…
But we may always stream into the charm of rose.
Let’s at least camp within the consciousness of sense
And wash our hands in the green truth of leaves
And walk towards the certainty of stones.

And then,
Let’s every sunrise repaint the picture of rebirth
And let’s only watch the flight of mind,
over the perception of space, of time, of colour, of sound
and of wide open windows.

And let’s invite the sky to sit in the blank space
between our words,
and then let’s breathe the air of eternity,
and swim in the wisdom of birds,
in the heart of desert and its serenity.

Let’s sometimes forget about the terms,
forget about the words
and still call the clouds, call the willows and the pines
and summer and fall
with their name.

Let’s just see
And follows the moist Footsteps of Water
to the roots of love.

And perhaps we are only meant to
within the white lilies of snow
and the flaming red of the years
run after the verse of the truth.

By: Sohrab Sepehri,
Summer 1964, Kashan, Iran.

Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani,
Winter 2008, Montréal, Canada.

* Kashan: The birthplace of the poet, a city in Iran.
* Tar: An instrument in Iranian traditional music.
* Silak: An archeological site in Iran.
* Khaibar: A place in Saudi Arabia, famous for Mohammed’s battle in it.

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