Sunday, October 7, 2012


You, me, amidst roses, poets, and wine:
High on the plateau, welcoming nomads,
Shiraz gives them refreshment in the cool
Of altitude and the shade of high trees.
Ample contrast seduces
                          visitors –
Wide streets, tree-lined, in the Zand capital –
A dynasty long gone and briefly strong –
Brusque bazaar, manly mosques, without a breeze.

Great poets, not kings, define this city:
Hafez from six hundred years before us –
His tomb engraved with verses that call us
To celebrate love, wine, music – acclaim!
He speaks of a softly moving creature:
A woman whose beauty he contemplates?
As we read we see once again a glimpse
Of Persia’s rich culture and classic fame.

Saadi recalls even earlier times.
We murmur together his tomb's chief pledge
To emit the perfume of love itself,
Thrilling his mourners for one thousand years.
Mausoleums and gardens invite us –
Which poet’s flag-stone will we bend to touch
And make our tribute as all Persians do?
Surely though our gesture is in our tears.

Tears for the ways the lords of our days treat
Gentle Shiraz, its roses and poets -
Even the wine has been confiscated.
But as for me – I could get drunk on love
In this paradise of measured parklands.
If only that were not forbidden too!
How Saadi must weep at the bitter sting
When political push descends to shove.

Still, for now, there are reasons to rejoice
At the colors of the carpets and kilims -
Precious gifts of Qashqais and other tribes -
Who come in from well worn tracks of the south.
You, me, primed to revolt with deep longing,
Decide to linger near the cypress trees,
Dare to indulge desire by flower beds,
Your kiss of sweet rose water on my mouth.

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