Sunday, May 15, 2011

An English Translation of a Poem by Mrs. Mahvash Sabet

No Boundaries[1][2]
No boundaries:
     face to face,
         knee to knee,
                eye to eye,
away from all that was and is.

We gaze at the water in dingy sinks,
     at water-smeared mirrors,
          looking for a reflection,
                looking for the Light of the world,
                     that eternal glimmer of Light,
                          the spot where there is sun -
                                   a jeweled crown at the Apex of the world –
                                        a bride on the Mountain of love
                                            enthralled by the Mountain of love,
                                                 transported by the scent of red geraniums and green meadows.
And those women:
just letters --
each separate from one another,
sitting around us all, their faces . . . ghastly . . .
no sign of connection,
merely letters,
not sentences,
not even

And yet it is together
          that we achieve that two-letter meaningful word “BE”:
              and become transported by the scent of red geraniums and green meadows.
No boundaries,
     knee to knee,
         eye to eye.

We didn’t know it,
          yet we unleashed
                chaos into the clamor
                         through our silence.
We didn’t know it,
           and the reflection of
                  the Light of the world,
                      in the water-smeared mirrors and dingy water –

We disturbed the silence.

We didn’t know it,
          and yet we would smile
                in the interstices of pain.

We would smile at those women –
           their feet swollen,
          mad ones with cold eyes,
          sick ones with yellow faces.
          no longer women, not even  men,
          old ones in death’s grasp, no matter the age
          and icy hungry ones
          hair shaved and faces razed
          and the ones with missing teeth
          and the young ones with yellow, swollen wounds
          and rotten thoughts
          with the paralyzing tang of decay,
          rusty voices
          and innocent women with entreating glances
          with hands like ivy 
                   seeking love,
and there we were, shedding love
         in that limbo of tribulation
              speaking of sacredness
                     of Humanity,
and those isolated letters glorified us
for some time in secret
and then openly.
When that one dear woman
         flipped through the pages of a book
                for the first time
                     and saw the letters of text
                           in the simple association of meaning
                                her eyes began to glitter
                                    her smile radiated with connection
                                        and her words radiated herself.
We didn’t know it

     and those lost delusory souls --
         unaware of love --
         unaware of us --
         unaware of Plus – addition and connection
         tending toward Minus -- subtraction and division--
         tried to remove us from the glossary of words.
And so,
       everyone saw the connectedness of letters
            in the simple association of meaning
                 flipping through pages
                     no boundaries
                          between one another
                              knee to knee
                                   eye to eye.


[1] This is an English translation of a poem by Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven members of the Baha’i leadership group in Iran, now serving their 20 year prison sentences. The poem is the story of why Mrs Sabet and Mrs Kamalabadi were transferred within the notorious Gohardasht prison. The original Farsi poem can be found here.
With special thanks to dear Ms Roxana Saberi and a beloved Baha’i friend for their comments on the translation draft.
[2] Also posted here.


  1. Beautiful. For an excerpt from another poem from Mahvash Sabet, see:

  2. May I please post a link to this site when I post a response poem on my poetry blog?

  3. BEATIFUL & VERY PROFOUND! God bless her beautiful soul. Please keep the people of Iran in your prayers.

  4. Dear Black Raven,
    What is your blog's address? Your profile is not accessible.

  5. They have moved them. Our ladies are back in Evin. It seems their composure, their radiant acquiescence, was such a calming influence, it was a threat to the intended environment. Perhaps, the change they brought will endure.