Swan Song

from the Persian of Mehdi Hamidi Shirazi

They say when the time comes for a swan to die,
it goes where other swans have gone to die.

They say as the last night begins to fall,
it trails behind the setting sun to die.

And it sings ghazals, as though it wished between
the pages of its own diwan to die.

They say a swan loves only once and will
return to where its love was won to die.

Making its deathbed where it first made love,
it can forget it has withdrawn to die.

Are these tales true? In the desert, where I live,
no swan has come, not a single one, to die.

But then they say that swans return to water,
in whose embrace life was begun, to die.

Open your arms, my dear, and slake my thirst:
the time has come for one more swan to die.

Note on the translation:

Mehdi Hamidi Shirazi (1914-1986) was one of the major Iranian poets of the 20th century. Best known for his love poems, he was also a prolific critic whose passionate polemics against free verse and mysticism enraged poets and Sufis alike. A diwan is a poet’s collected works.

Armen Davoudian

Armen Davoudian

Armen Davoudian’s poems and translations appear in AGNI, The Sewanee Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Swan Song, won the 2020 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. He grew up in Isfahan, Iran and is currently a PhD candidate in English at Stanford University.
Armen Davoudian

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Author: Armen Davoudian

Armen Davoudian’s poems and translations appear in AGNI, The Sewanee Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Swan Song, won the 2020 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. He grew up in Isfahan, Iran and is currently a PhD candidate in English at Stanford University.