Five Poems

translated by Kaveh Bassiri
A hand mirror is open, its dull face open to the reader, on a table
Photo: Ria Alfana/Unsplash


A Conversation from Far, Far Away *

No line
dear friend
connects here, where I am,
with where you are.
Isn’t it strange that I’m talking to you?

The question you handed me
has riveted my gaze                              honestly!
With what key did you pass through this door,
for when I look all around . . . ?

It’s a strange time.
Where did my feet misplace me?
When did my hands leave me?
My heart, which was at least beating more accurately than the city clock,
is standing behind what light?
It isn’t clear. I don’t know.
My mind, though (it might be said), is still working.
This factory continues to . . . question.
Would you believe me if I said I don’t have an answer?

This conversation is starting to cost too much,
and this door (it looks like)
won’t smile on any key.

* For Mohammad Mokhtari, a leading poet and intellectual, who was executed in 1998 as part of what is referred to as the Chain Murders.


Must Not Have a Key 

This is I  
who in my own fashion take the alley  
to the street or . . . 
this one  
coming down the street  
in his own guise to . . .  
or this one in the mirror 
who finds himself through me  
in his own eyes.   

I don’t want to always put my foot down for I, 
so I say you                                           Hey you! 
You must not have a key 
to be stuck behind the door,             do you? 


Transcripts from a Camera

An overturned chair
is a sign of not having feet on the ground.
A left-open door doesn’t know what to do.
And the empty mirror
again reflects
the aimless prowling of the light
against a silent wall.

The alarm clock has started to stutter.
Something like the trickling
of silence in a hollow pit
reaches the ear.



This Scale Won’t Balance

The world won’t ditch me.
Life wants its share from me.
Life empties my pocket
of the share it hasn’t given me
and bites the apple
I haven’t touched.

I cover my ears with silence
to hear the sound of forgetting.
The sea won’t let me.
The sea is so deep,
it makes me laugh.

As I flee to my room,
the alley with its long arms
grabs hold of my collar.
The world pushes me aside.
The world steals my mouth
to speak its big words.

I drown.
A hungry oyster swallows my dream.
Life puts my dream around its neck
and shows off to the sky.



 1 > 1 

(a) One bowing to one 
(b) One turning one’s back on one 
(c) One becoming a mouth, the other a mouthful 
(d) Just a quatrain?





Translations from the Persian

Mehrdad Fallah (b. 1960) is one of the most influential Iranian poets of recent decades. The author of ten books of poetry, Fallah has also published a translation of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and a collection of critical essays on contemporary Iranian poetry.

Kaveh Bassiri’s translations received a 2019 NEA fellowship and can be found in the Virginia Quarterly Review, Guernica, Colorado Review, and Massachusetts Review.