Perched just behind the pilot’s seat
I felt strangely modern and sure,
Despite the rough terrain below
The helicopter’s throbbing roar.
But then the hills fell right away
And the dusty ruins were there,
Blurring slightly but set in stone
So my response was stare and stare.
The old city stood at the top
Of a neatly divided plain.
The hills behind were stark and bare
Housing old graves that hide the pain
Of those ancient kings of all kings
Who ruled as their vast empire spread.
They gained the world and even more;
But reigned always just years ahead
Of great armies and grim defeat.
In time they came – massed invaders –
Bringing the fire, wreaking revenge,
Raising flags for crass crusaders.
And all the time I walked these ruins
I sensed what must be understood –
Persians were here when we had nil
Of what we know of nationhood.
So I began to wish for you:
My favorite glimpse of Persia’s pride.
How much, much more I would have learned,
If you had been my loving guide.
Later you said in your sweet voice,
That laughed its way around my heart,
You have but seen Takht-e Jamshid
Where our great kings led lives apart
And built bedrooms for all their wives.
With that I smiled, replete with dreams
Of love for my Persian princess,
Who was, I hoped, hot for my schemes.
Note: The ruins at Persepolis are often referred to as Takht-e Jamshid because the site was once believed to be the home of the mythical King Jamshid. In fact, the city was built by the kings who reigned after Cyrus the Great had toppled the tyranny of Babylon’s Chaldean rulers and established the massive Persian Empire that dominated the known world until Alexander the Great began his march eastwards. This poem recalls seeing Persepolis from the air while travelling from Shiraz in a military helicopter piloted by members of the Iranian Imperial Guard. The photograph shows only a tiny portion of the overall spectacle.