Weathervane

from the Persian of Nima Yushij

A bird has nestled on our roof
…………and another in an oak;
one’s chirping all the time and one
…………is hushed like flameless smoke.

Its eyes and wings are welded shut,
…………fused from soul to feather;
metal plumage, burnished beak
…………give shape to the weather.

The other bird, whose life is song,
…………shivers from feather to soul;
it can neither hide in the oak tree’s shade
…………nor abandon its broken bole.

But if you listen carefully
…………you’ll hear the dead bird’s call
echo in the living voice
…………the oak tree has in thrall.

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it can forget it has withdrawn to die.

Coming Out of the Shower

I shut my eyes under the scalding stream
…………..scrubbing off last night’s dream
when suddenly I hear your voice again
……as though it caught in the clogged drain

and was sent bubbling back up from the other
…………..world where you’re not my mother.
This time it’s really you. I’m really here.
……I blink. We do not disappear.

Dad left, you say, to shower at the shop
…………..so I don’t need to stop
just yet—and yet I do, unable to
……resume old customs, unlike you.

In a one-bath four-person household, we
…………..learned what we mustn’t see,
become, in time, so coolly intimate
……with one another’s silhouette

The Yellow Swan

after James Merrill

At noon the pedaled swans afloat midstream
………. ………. or parked at the water’s rim
find the boy first in line or there before
there is a line, and always the nice boatman
lets him mount his favorite ride, whose name
………. ………. outwits both rust and wear.
………. He whispers: I love you Yellow Swan,

a secret he knows better than to share
………. ………. save in the hollow ear-
like curve of that arched neck whose bright reflection
breaks on rings of water as he climbs
between the wings and pedals from the pier,
………. ………. a young boy full of questions
………. weighing him down. The river foams,

For Grandfather

And then a rock dove, astonished midair, dove
from its own ghost that stamped upon the pane,
in dovetailed detail, a short-lived afterlife
before it all came avalanching down
and I was left to split the difference
between transparence and sheer emptiness.
Lifting a palm, I spread it on the pane

of your still-lifted palm, spreading in pain
behind the far side of the fading moon
of breath now misting up the wall of glass
which splits the terminal in half. Isfahan
nesfe jahan, you’d boast, lifting a glass.
If you’ve seen Isfahan, then you’ve seen half
the world. I’ll see you in the other half.

Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow

after Piet Mondrian

Some lines, right angles, and the primary colors
make out of almost nothing something lasting.
He’s found a new common denominator

in the poverty of paint. Sick of the clutter
of the particular, why not try fasting
on angles, lines, and just the primary colors?

Who says that you need God, a dubious smile, or
even lovers always sadly parting,
to find it art? The common denominator

between success and failure, fear and valor,
Russian and German, or you and me, looks something
like these lines and angles. The three colors