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Baktash Abtin: Restoring the Human

Without you life is hell
Poetry! the dream of restoring the Human
I write you and
In the world’s sleeve
I look for a hand
That could turn bullets
into a white flag.
Such is the sorcery I love.

 

Baktash Abtin, the Iranian poet, documentary filmmaker, and member of the Iranian Writers’ Association died on January 8, 2022, at the age of 47, in Sassan Hospital in Tehran due to delays in receiving medical treatment after contracting COVID-19 in Evin prison. Born Mehdi Kazemi in 1974 in Shahr-e Rey, the capital of Rey county in Tehran province, Abtin was known for short poems depicting intimate moments of everyday life through simple yet compelling imagery. His masterful depiction of the human struggle for freedom and justice was inspired by the experiences of ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations in the wake of war and refugee crises in the Middle East.

Baktash Abtin: Homeland

Trees with green eyes
Doves with white shrouds
And you with red cheeks
My homeland!
This is how the sun’s coffin
Crawls up the sky’s shoulders.

 

Baktash Abtin, the Iranian poet, documentary filmmaker, and member of the Iranian Writers’ Association died on January 8, 2022, at the age of 47, in Sassan Hospital in Tehran due to delays in receiving medical treatment after contracting COVID-19 in Evin prison. Born Mehdi Kazemi in 1974 in Shahr-e Rey, the capital of Rey county in Tehran province, Abtin was known for short poems depicting intimate moments of everyday life through simple yet compelling imagery. His masterful depiction of the human struggle for freedom and justice was inspired by the experiences of ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations in the wake of war and refugee crises in the Middle East.

Baktash Abtin: Complication

Borders are complicated.
Geography is complicated.
The oppressed, poor, violent Third World,
The collective suicide of whales on the coast
Is complicated.
But the drowned passports of immigrants on boats,
That is simple.
Third World, you are a victim,
Bread and death are cheap in you.
I wish instead of Mars, the telescopes had discovered you,
The wounded, sorrowful, deadly Third World!

 

Nguyen Quang Thieu: Chapter 8 (from Slaughterhouse)

She Doesn’t Believe She Exists in this World

Her life is a search for herself in the present jungle.
The people who traveled before her didn’t leave any signs on the old roads
And she is the first person to step into her life itself.

Was she born? Did she raise her first cry?
Did she open her eyes to see her first dawn?
Did she see her two breasts growing
And shining like two stars in the night?
Did she walk? Did she smile?
Did she cry for her suffering? Did she sing?
Did she make a fire for cooking? Did she turn on the light when night comes?
Did she take off her clothes to lay down beside him?
Did she give birth to a child? Was she a mother?
Was she a lover? Was she a happy woman?
Is she standing before the house under the sun?

Nguyen Quang Thieu: Chapter 7 (from Slaughterhouse)

When the city subsided into sleep, he came to this place.

The trees along the street like giants in the overalls of glittering stars.
In his childhood, he thought they were the bodyguards of God
So he was frightened before God’s image, with the fear of a little boy.
But now he believes God visited his divided house.
He sat down by his family’s plates of food and looked at his children with loving and protective eyes.
That is the day the grain flowers blossomed in the rise of bows.
That is the day he put the brilliant flowers into the dark vase.
That is the day the wind chimes on his balcony rang out and his house became a small church.
That is the day the white peonies shined like Christmas lights.
That is the day he smiled at everyone he met and wanted to give a gift to them all,
But he didn’t understand why God would sigh before standing up to leave,
Although His friend said: ‘’God never sighs.’’

The Gap

I positioned my pointer finger
so the half-drowned honey bee in the bird bath
could climb astride the nail

and be lifted into summer sun,
where she might more quickly warm
and dry herself with shivers.

Three times she tried to fly,
rising an inch, only to come down
stumbling on the back of my hand.

The fourth time she rose to the level
of my eyes and hovered there,
then landed on my nose for a breather.

A dark ticklish dot that crossed my eyes,
she kissed with her honeyed proboscis
my noble schnozz in thanks,

Camp Robber

Swaying in a one-pound hiker’s hammock,
I fell asleep with an unwrapped package
of peanut butter crackers on my belly.

Bless the fact that it was afternoon
and we were all three sacked out in our hammocks,
but I was the only one asleep

with peanut butter crackers on his belly.
Bless the son then, who alerted me most quietly
to the gray jay just lit at the hammock’s edge.

Otherwise I wouldn’t have cracked an eye
to see. Otherwise I would have startled when it leapt
to my hip bone, where it seized a cracker

Pollen rains

With the green-golden dust
that settles on the windowsills
before the Saturday cleaning,
come the butterfly-like petals
landing on our shirts, between
white strawberry flowers,
piles of soft pink under trees.

The air is thick. Trees drop
caterpillars on the road, blue
half-shells of robins’ eggs.
Before the end of June
the house will be coated
in pollen dust, our windows
will need washing, windowpanes
will be green as moss.

The children and I go
out in the pollen rains
and are doused in them,
stained and sneezing,
watery-eyed, thrilled.
At the end of June we will
leave you pacing in the house
in the dark room, we will drive
away in the gray morning,
pollen dust on the car windshield.

The Bastard Wing

This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust
our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.
― Rainer Maria Rilke

The sky is blue with clouds. Yes, it takes a long time
Not to see this. It takes until the crow is not too close
And close enough to see the bulging eye, the violet in her
Slow blink lid. Three crows circle her, then go
Leaving me alone. I scour the bald beach and the blank air
For anything else compatible with crow.
The sea glitters. What do you suffer with?

Elegy On Bleached Coral

Solar panels
on my roof
useless as ships
come to grief

Shrouded in
monsoonal rain
where the forest
meets the reef

A vague etching
of something strange
of levelled ghosts
passing away

Hue of the Eucharist
the chalky waste
of mute Cassandra’s
stranded face

In shallow water
quiet and wet
like a long forgetting
human brain