Sunday, August 24, 2014

Dark Wings of Night: Simin Behbahani's "My Country, I Will Build You Again"

I was notified that Simin Behbahani, an icon of the modern Persian poetry and a human rights activist, died at 87 on 19 August. Below is a "found tanka" in memory of her:  

My Country,
I will build you again,
If need be,
with bricks
made from my life

Simin Behbahani, Iran's national poet known as “the lioness of Iran"
               

Note: In a 2011 video message to the Iranian people in celebration of the Persian New Year, President Obama said Ms. Behbahani’s “words have moved the world” and quoted a poem she wrote in 1982.

On this day – a celebration that serves as a bridge from the past to the future – I would like to close with a quote from the poet Simin Behbahani – a woman who has been banned from traveling beyond Iran, even though her words have moved the world: "Old I may be, but, given the chance, I will learn. I will begin a second youth alongside my progeny. I will recite the Hadith of love of country with such fervor as to make each word bear life.   ~ President Obama, Nowruz Message

Below is the full text of  Simin Behbahani's 1982 poem:

My Country, I Will Build You Again

My country, I will build you again,
If need be, with bricks made from my life.
I will build columns to support your roof,
If need be, with my bones.
I will inhale again the perfume of flowers
Favored by your youth.
I will wash again the blood off your body
With torrents of my tears.
Once more, the darkness will leave this house.
I will paint my poems blue with the color of our sky.
The resurrector of “old bones” will grant me in his bounty
a mountains splendor in his testing grounds.
Old I may be, but given the chance, I will learn.
I will begin a second youth alongside my progeny.
I will recite the Hadith of love and country
With such fervor as to make each word bear life.
There still burns a fire in my breast
to keep undiminished the warmth of kinship
I feel for my people.
Once more you will grant me strength,
though my poems have settled in blood.
Once more I will build you with my life,
though it be beyond my means.

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