Fatemeh Shams: Translated by Dick Davis


Fatemeh Shams born in 1983 in Mashhad, Iran, won the silver medal in the national Literature Olympiad in 2000. After graduating in sociology from Tehran University, Fatemeh pursued post-graduate studies in London and then in Oxford University where she taught Persian language and literature. She is currently teaching classical Persian literature at the Courtauld Gallery of Art in Somerset House, London. She won the Jaleh Esfahani poetry award for the best young Persian poet in 2012. Her first book of poetry was published in 2013 under the title of ’88’. In the 2009 post-election turmoil, Fatemeh and her family were targeted by the state for supporting the Green movement. Since then Fatemeh has been forced into exile and has been active in the social media network and Iranian intellectual community in exile. Life in exile, migration, politics, war, human relationships, gender issues and socio-political taboos are among the most leading themes in her works.



Dick Davis is Professor Emeritus of Persian at Ohio State University, where he was chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from 2002 to 2012. He has written scholarly works on both English and Persian literature, as well as eight volumes of his own poetry, and been the recipient of numerous academic and literary awards, including both the Ingram Merrill and Heinemann awards for poetry; his publications include volumes of poetry and verse translation chosen as books of the year by The Sunday Times (UK) 1989; The Daily Telegraph (UK) 1989; The Economist (UK) 2002; The Washington Post 2010, and The Times Literary Supplement (UK) 2013. He has published numerous book-length verse translations from medieval Persian, most recently, Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz (2012). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and has been called, by the Times Literary Supplement, “our finest translator from Persian”.


(All poems written in the original Persian by Fatemeh Shams and translated into English by Dick Davis)


با شعر و شور و آتش و شب آفریدمت
با لحظه‌های مستی و تب آفریدمت
با دست‌های خالی و با جام‌‌های پر
با جان خود وجب به وجب آفریدمت
آن اسم اعظمی تو که بی‌وقفه آشناست
مثل خدا، بدون لقب آفریدمت
آنجا که آفتاب به شب طعنه می‌زند*
با خاک توس و تار و طرب آفریدمت
مجنون لهجه‌دار خراسانی‌ات شدم
با طعم خوب بوسه و لب آفریدمت
شب آمدی، سکوت و کویرم ستاره داد
بی‌واژه و بدون سبب آفریدمت


Love Poem 4

With poetry and passion, with fire and night,
I created you
With moments of drunkenness, with feverish delight,
I created you

With empty hands, with glasses filled with wine,
Inch by inch, and with my own soul’s light
I created you

Your marvelous name’s known always, everywhere,
Like God Himself, without a title and outright,
I created you

With soil from Tus, with music and with joy,
There, where the sun reproves the night,
I created you

Crazy for your accent that’s born from Khorasan
With the sweet taste of kisses, with lips that unite,
I created you

Silent, you came at night, my desert filled with stars,
For no reason at all, with no words I can write,
I created you


جنگ بود و گلوله می‌بارید
زنده ماندن چه کار سختی بود
هر طرف را نگاه می‌کردند
مرگ و آوار و تیره‌بختی بود

باید از خانه بار می‌بستند
سمت تاریک ناکجاآباد
سمت جغرافیای نامعلوم
سمت هر جا و هر چه باداباد

پشت سر خانه‌ای که گم می‌شد
در غبار سیاه و خاکستر
پیش رو، راه سخت و ناهموار
سیل آوارگان بی‌سنگر

شانه‌هایش پناه کودک بود
کودک دیگری در آغوشش
سومی می‌دوید از پی مرد
تلی از خاک بود تن‌پوشش

مادر از پی روانه و خاموش
کوهی از بغض و بی‌قراری بود
چشم در چشم جنگ و از چشمش
آب سرخ انار جاری بود

آه، اما چه جنگ، وحشی بود
چنگ می‌زد به روی امیدش
دزد شادی کودکانش بود
با شکرخند خشم و تهدیدش

از سه کودک یکی نمی‌خندید
از سه کودک یکی پر از تب بود
بی‌وطن، بی‌صدا و بی آهنگ
مثل یک شعر بی‌مخاطب بود

باز مانده کنار راهی دور
خیره در مهربانی خورشید
تا که شاید یکی رسد از راه
تا که شاید یکی هم او را دید…

جنگ آمد به هيئت آدم
مرگ آمد به قامت خورشید
چشم‌هایش در آسمان یخ زد
و دگر تا همیشه هیچ ندید

و دگر تا همیشه هیچ ندید
و دگر تا همیشه هیچ نگفت
چشم‌هایِ عزیز ِ نازش را
بست آرام بر جنایت و خُفت


How hard it was…

How hard it was to stay alive
In the war, the bullets’ rain,
When everywhere they looked
Were death and darkness and pain

They had to pack and leave
And travel to who-knows-where
To a geography unknown,
That was anywhere but there

Behind them their lost home
Was black with ash, ahead
A hard uneven road
And the flood of those who fled

His shoulders carried a child
His arms were around another,
Behind them ran a third
Like a mound that dust-clouds smother

Their mother was following them
A mountain of silence and dread,
Eye to eye with the war, tears flowed
Like pomegranate juice, blood-red.

Ah but the war was brutal
Destroying her hopes with fear,
Stealing her children’s joy
With its thuggish, violent sneer.

Three children – one didn’t smile,
Three children – one had a fever,
They were homeless and silent now
Like a poem unheard forever

By the side of the road, bewildered
By the kindness of the sun,
Perhaps someone would come
And see him there, someone …

War came in the shape of a man,
Death came in the form of the sun
His eyes were fixed on the sky, frozen
Forever, and seeing no one

And then he saw nothing forever,
And forever now he kept
His silence, and closed his infant eyes
On the crimes around him, and slept.


از ترس یک کابوس تا هرگز نخوابیدن
هر شب نشستن تا طلوع صبح را دیدن
جایی میان خواب و بیداری، تلو خوردن
در برزخ ِ کوری به نام ِ زندگی مُردن
در جا زدن در عشق‌های پوچ ِ تکراری
در دوستت دارم عزیزم! دوستم داری؟
در خواستن‌هایی که از دم بی‌سرانجامند
در شغل‌های آبکی، در قعر ِ بیکاری
بی‌حافظه، بی‌مرز، بی شهر و وطن بودن
آواره در آغوش ِ سرد ِ مرد و زن بودن
یک ساک و سیصد جلد را هی جا به جا کردن
بین تمام ِ رنگ‌ها، رنگ ِ کفن بودن
دل کندن از هر کس که بر صورت نقابی داشت
هر کس که در قعر وجودش منجلابی داشت
دل از کندن از شهر ِ غریب کودکی‌هایم
آنجا که در خاکش غم و اندوه نابی داشت
از برنگشتن‌های بی‌پایان ِ پُر تردید
بیدارخوابی بی تو در آغوش این تبعید
دلتگی ِ بی‌مرز از هرگز ندیدن‌ها
سرخوردگی از ابتذال واژه امید
بی‌سرزمین، بی‌عشق، در اوج همین مستی
در کوچه باریک ِ بی پایان ِ بن‌بستی
آوردنت بالا و هی با عشق پرسیدن
ای سرزمین خسته! توی فکر من هستی؟


Never to fall asleep …

Never to fall sleep, because of a nightmare’s fear
To sit awake each night until the dawn is here
Caught between waking and sleep, as if unsteady with drink,
In the name of life to die, with blindness drawing near

In pointless empty love repeated endlessly
In saying “I love you, my dear! Do you love me?”
In wanting things that reach their end but never start,
In pointless work, in no work’s sour banality

To have no memory, no border, and no place,
To drift about in men’s and women’s cold embrace,
To drag with you a suitcase and three hundred books
To have, among all colors, a shroud’s conceal your face

To tear away my heart from veils and all they mean
From men whose inward being is a reeking foul latrine
To tear my heart from that strange city of my childhoods
Whose earth holds sorrow still that’s innocent and clean

From endless hesitating, from not returning there,
In waking dreams without you, in exile’s arms and air,
In boundless longing for the things I’ll never see
In “hope”, that lovely word whose absence brings despair

Without a homeland, without love, in wild perplexity,
Within this narrow cul-de-sac from which I can’t walk free
To vomit you from me, and ah to ask you with my love
“Oh wounded, worn out country! Do you still think of me?”




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