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Poetry: Inscription ( Katibeh)
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Inscription ( Katibeh)

Mehdi Akhavan Sales (M. Omid)
Inscription (Katibeh)

 

Inscription
Poet: Mehdi Akhavan Sales (M. Omid)
Translation: Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak

The stone laid there like a mountain.
And we sat here a weary bunch.
Women, men, young, old,
all linked together,
at the ankles, by a chain.
You could crawl to whomever your heart desired
as far as you could drag your chain.

We did not know,
nor did we ask,
was it a voice in our nightmare and weariness,
or else, a herald from an unknown corner,
it spoke:

"The stone lying there holds a secret
inscribed on it by wise men of old."
Thus spoke the voice over and again,
and, as a wave recoiling on itself,
retreated in the dark.

And we said nothing.
And for some time we said nothing.
Afterwards, only in our looks,
many doubts and queries spoke out,
then nothing but the ambush of weariness, oblivion,
and silence, even in our looks,
and the stone lying there.

One night, moonlight was pouring damnation on us,
and our swollen feet were itching,
one of us, whose chain was the heaviest,
damned his ears and groaned: "I must go,"
and we said, fatigued: "Damn our ears, damn our eyes, we must go."
and we crawled up to where the stone lay.
One of us, whose chain was looser, climbed up and read:

"He shall know my secret,
who turns me over!"

With a singular joy we repeated this dusty secret,
under our breath as if it were a prayer.

And the night was a glorious stream filled with moonlight.

One...two...three...heave-ho!
One...two...three...once more!
Sweating sad, cursing, at times even crying.
Again...one...two...three...thus many times.
Hard was our task, sweet our victory,
tired but happy, we felt a familiar joy,
soaring with delight and ecstasy.

One of us, whose chain was lighter,
saluted all, then climbed the stone,
wiped the dirt-caked inscription and mouthed the words,
(we were impatient)
wetter his lips (and we did the same),
and remained silent,
cast a glance at us and remained silent,
read again, his eyes fixed, his tongue dead,
his gaze drifting over a far away unknown.

We yelled to him:

"Read!" he was speechless
"Read it to us!" he stared at us in silence
after a time
he climbed down, his chain clanking
we held him up, lifeless as he was
we sat him down
he cursed our hands and his,

"What did you read? huh?"
He swallowed and said faintly:
"The same was written:

"He shall know my secret
who turns me over!"

We sat,
and stared at the moon and the bright night,
and the night was a sickly stream.

 

 
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