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Nonfiction

Conversations

By Sahar Sakhaei
Translated from Persian by Poupeh Missaghi
I thought about the eyes of the girl standing tall with her cut hair. Suddenly, the sun rose.
flock of birds migrating during sunset
Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash

(1) October 20, 2022

I wrote that it was death that turned the pictures black and white. The wise man reminded me that being alive didn’t necessitate colors. I asked, “What should we do then to feel alive?” He said, “Do you feel pain? Do you feel pain seeing the cut hair of the girl standing at her mother’s grave[1]?” I said, “I don’t know anything other than pain. There is a cry in me that is in the eastern redbud at the beginning of spring, cuts through the tree’s bark and blooms, the cry that sings, “the caravan passes / upon the redbud flowers / the young, martyred cedar / leads the caravan.” He said, “You are alive. We are alive. Pain abounds even in smiling faces, even in the bare dreams of the future.” I said, “Fear. Are we allowed to have fear?” The wise man replied, “If a bullet is aimed at the temple of life, and you want to stay alive, then not fearing is a crime.” I asked, “What about crying? Can we cry? Are we allowed to?” The wise man wiped his eyes clean of tears, looked at the far distance, and said, “It is the tears that wet the dry path to the future so that imagination is born. It is the tears that turn the desert of yesterday into the sea of the future. Cry and run. Feel the pain and be hopeful. Look at the eyes of the girl holding her cut hair in her hand and believe that blood is not shed in vain.” I accepted his words. There was no other choice. Shedding tears, I stepped onto the border of life and death, and forgot that from our homeland, we now held in hand a bird with bloody feathers, a bird that was our cut hair. I thought about the eyes of the girl standing tall with her cut hair. Suddenly, the sun rose.

 

(2) May 18, 2022

The wise man said, “Write in praise of borders, in praise of distances.” He said, “There is no alienness that we have not tasted. There is no land whose people we have not envied. There is no pain that has not wanted us. There is no tear that has picked eyes other than ours.” The wise man said, “They have done something to us that our clothes don’t fit into any suitcases anymore. That there is no present tense that we have not wished to become past tense.” I ask, “Where is the future within these borders, wise man?” The wise man says, “There is no future that we can even picture in our imagination. Bread has pushed the songs aside and nightmares have overtaken the share of dreams. The city, like in The Book of Kings, is a cemetery of heroes, and fathers are like Fereydun standing in shock over the cut heads of Salm and Tur. The people are Rostam, lost in the struggle with their own pride, aware of an ominous secret, but so late, so late.” The wise man said, “The people are feeling all the problems without having experienced the love preceding them. They have made prisons of words. And poets will be losing their lives before others, because only they understand how unable we are of crying out what we are experiencing.” The old man said, “Write in praise of borders, in praise of distances.” He said this and left. And a little fish died. On the border of water and sand, the border of daylight and darkness, the border of living with humiliation or dying with envy, both of which apply to us. The old man said, “All of these apply to us.”

 

(3) September 27, 2021

The man said, “I’m tired.” The woman said, “I understand.” The man said, “No, you don’t. I am beyond tired.” The woman said, “Every day, as I walk to buy milk, bread, and some more red and white roses, I have to be careful about I am wearing, where I am passing, who is looking at me. I have to watch out for the white morality guards’ vans, count the police Samand cars and check their green plates, constantly plotting and replotting in my mind. My daily life is my little stronghold. I understand how tired you are.” The man said, “Could we ever be happy again?” The woman did not say anything. She closed her eyes, closed her mouth, and remained silent. The man asked, “Are you asleep?” The woman said, “No. I’ve gone to the birds. We are migrating. Toward the north.” The man asked, “North of Iran?” The woman replied, “No. North. The north of all norths. The north of the world.” The man asked, “Do you mean our happiness is in the north?” The woman said, “Our happiness is in imagination. In moving. Like the birds whose hearts beat fast and don’t have one home. We don’t know whether they are happy or not, maybe they are, they don’t know the thing called happiness. They just move. Wherever the seeds guide them.” The man said, “So let us leave as well. Let us leave to go north, to go south, to go outside.” The woman said, “I have left a long time ago. But there are always things left behind. The one who has moved always looks back at the truths left behind.” The man said, “Like the killer who always returns to the scene of the crime.” The woman said, “Are we the killers or the victims?” The man said, “Neither. We are birds.”


[1] Referring to the daughter of Minoo Majidi, one of the women killed during the recent protests

 

© Sahar Sakhaei. Translation © November 2022 by Poupeh Missaghi. All rights reserved.
English

(1) October 20, 2022

I wrote that it was death that turned the pictures black and white. The wise man reminded me that being alive didn’t necessitate colors. I asked, “What should we do then to feel alive?” He said, “Do you feel pain? Do you feel pain seeing the cut hair of the girl standing at her mother’s grave[1]?” I said, “I don’t know anything other than pain. There is a cry in me that is in the eastern redbud at the beginning of spring, cuts through the tree’s bark and blooms, the cry that sings, “the caravan passes / upon the redbud flowers / the young, martyred cedar / leads the caravan.” He said, “You are alive. We are alive. Pain abounds even in smiling faces, even in the bare dreams of the future.” I said, “Fear. Are we allowed to have fear?” The wise man replied, “If a bullet is aimed at the temple of life, and you want to stay alive, then not fearing is a crime.” I asked, “What about crying? Can we cry? Are we allowed to?” The wise man wiped his eyes clean of tears, looked at the far distance, and said, “It is the tears that wet the dry path to the future so that imagination is born. It is the tears that turn the desert of yesterday into the sea of the future. Cry and run. Feel the pain and be hopeful. Look at the eyes of the girl holding her cut hair in her hand and believe that blood is not shed in vain.” I accepted his words. There was no other choice. Shedding tears, I stepped onto the border of life and death, and forgot that from our homeland, we now held in hand a bird with bloody feathers, a bird that was our cut hair. I thought about the eyes of the girl standing tall with her cut hair. Suddenly, the sun rose.

 

(2) May 18, 2022

The wise man said, “Write in praise of borders, in praise of distances.” He said, “There is no alienness that we have not tasted. There is no land whose people we have not envied. There is no pain that has not wanted us. There is no tear that has picked eyes other than ours.” The wise man said, “They have done something to us that our clothes don’t fit into any suitcases anymore. That there is no present tense that we have not wished to become past tense.” I ask, “Where is the future within these borders, wise man?” The wise man says, “There is no future that we can even picture in our imagination. Bread has pushed the songs aside and nightmares have overtaken the share of dreams. The city, like in The Book of Kings, is a cemetery of heroes, and fathers are like Fereydun standing in shock over the cut heads of Salm and Tur. The people are Rostam, lost in the struggle with their own pride, aware of an ominous secret, but so late, so late.” The wise man said, “The people are feeling all the problems without having experienced the love preceding them. They have made prisons of words. And poets will be losing their lives before others, because only they understand how unable we are of crying out what we are experiencing.” The old man said, “Write in praise of borders, in praise of distances.” He said this and left. And a little fish died. On the border of water and sand, the border of daylight and darkness, the border of living with humiliation or dying with envy, both of which apply to us. The old man said, “All of these apply to us.”

 

(3) September 27, 2021

The man said, “I’m tired.” The woman said, “I understand.” The man said, “No, you don’t. I am beyond tired.” The woman said, “Every day, as I walk to buy milk, bread, and some more red and white roses, I have to be careful about I am wearing, where I am passing, who is looking at me. I have to watch out for the white morality guards’ vans, count the police Samand cars and check their green plates, constantly plotting and replotting in my mind. My daily life is my little stronghold. I understand how tired you are.” The man said, “Could we ever be happy again?” The woman did not say anything. She closed her eyes, closed her mouth, and remained silent. The man asked, “Are you asleep?” The woman said, “No. I’ve gone to the birds. We are migrating. Toward the north.” The man asked, “North of Iran?” The woman replied, “No. North. The north of all norths. The north of the world.” The man asked, “Do you mean our happiness is in the north?” The woman said, “Our happiness is in imagination. In moving. Like the birds whose hearts beat fast and don’t have one home. We don’t know whether they are happy or not, maybe they are, they don’t know the thing called happiness. They just move. Wherever the seeds guide them.” The man said, “So let us leave as well. Let us leave to go north, to go south, to go outside.” The woman said, “I have left a long time ago. But there are always things left behind. The one who has moved always looks back at the truths left behind.” The man said, “Like the killer who always returns to the scene of the crime.” The woman said, “Are we the killers or the victims?” The man said, “Neither. We are birds.”


[1] Referring to the daughter of Minoo Majidi, one of the women killed during the recent protests

 

© Sahar Sakhaei. Translation © November 2022 by Poupeh Missaghi. All rights reserved.

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