Man, this winter, am I right? Just won’t quit. I’ve been carrying this poem around in my brain for the last couple of months because it was pertinent not only to our shared state of deep freeze but also to my personal condition which I’m suggesting was a metaphorical freeze but really was just a long wait to find out about a job offer. But I misread the metaphor. Or rather, there was no metaphor. Winter is winter and the job offer was withdrawn. And so the poem takes its rightful place not as a talisman but as a reminder of larger truths. But jeez, two below in March? Are you kidding me?
It’s by Yaqub Rostami Salis and it comes at the end of A Silent Note (نت سکوت / تهران: هنر رسانه اردیبهشت) published in 1391/2012.
تا آب شدن یخ ها راه دراز ایست
تو!…کمرت را محکم تر ببند
که زمستان بی زخمه نخواهد گذشت
به زودی سرود شادمانی را
شقایق های دشت خواهند سرود
بی سبب اندیشه نکن
در افق روشن فردا
قاصدک در راه است
It’s a long road till the ice turns to water.
You! Tighten your belt!
Winter will not pass by without wounding.
Soon, the poppies in the fields will sing their song of joy.
So do not needlessly fret and worry
On tomorrow’s bright horizon,
Dandelions are on the march!
Notes For People Who Care About Gerunds:
The original Persian starts off with a great gerund. Ab shodan-e yakh`ha… Literally, “The water-becoming of ices…”. It’s not “to melt,” which is a different verb, but literally “to become water.” Many verbs in Persian are compounds created by adding the verb shodan – to become (or kardan – to do, for the active voice)-to another word to create a verb. This allows a great deal of flexibility, particularly in poetry. Persian also allows pretty much any verb to be used as a noun. All of which can make translation a bitch, frankly. I really struggled with trying to capture the efficiency of that line. Then I gave up and wrote what I wrote.
The “Tighten your belt” stuff harks back to mythic imagery of heroes girding their loins. You know how they do. Kamar is the middle, the waist and so the warrior’s sword belt. Get ready for a fight, is the sense. In English, “tighten your belt” implies there are lean times ahead and food will be scarce. So not quite the same, but “Gird your loins,” while it appeals to me, looked stupid when I wrote it down.