Two Poems

Garous Abdolmalekian
Translated from the Persian by Idra Novey & Ahmad Nadalizadeh

Acquiescence

And pain
which arrived this time prior to the wound
remained so long in our home
it became my sister.
We succumbed
to the dirt of the draperies,
to the furrows on the wall's forehead.
We succumbed
to the ticking hands of
the clock
as it dismembered us.

So was that all life could be?
An index finger pointing toward the faraway?
Snow falling for years
yet failing to take shape into piles?

And life
which enters from a hidden door every night
with a dull knife.

The moon is witness to
this darkness
and the moon is
the mouth of a lover
who consummates words
in fourteen nights

and the little black fish
moving through the capillaries of my fingers
is now orbiting my temples.

Within me
come the cries of a tree
tired of repeating the same fruit.

I am a fish tired of water!
I succumb to you,
sad birdcage veil
I succumb
to the giant question mark
stuck in my mouth.

So were our days only that long?

And life grew so narrow
that we fell
finally
into the same pit
we leapt over
many times
before.

 

The Bird of Sorrow

A bullet passes through my neck
my blood
begins to speak through my feathers

The hunter doesn't know
the dinner his children are eating
will upset everyone

The hunter doesn't know
my children are hungry right now
and I will continue flying
in a foolish direction

The hunter doesn't know
I'll be flying in their stomachs for years
and his children
will turn slowly
into cages

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Garous Abdolmalekian was born in 1980, days after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War, and lives in Tehran. He is the author of five poetry books and the recipient of the Karnameh Poetry Book of the Year Award and the Iranian Youth Poetry Book Prize. His poems have been translated into Arabic, French, German, Kurdish, and Spanish. Abdolmalekian is presently the editor of the poetry section at Chesmeh Publications in Tehran and the executive editor of publications at the Youth Poetry Office in Iran.

Ahmad Nadalizadeh is a translator from the Persian and PhD candidate in comparative literature at the University of Oregon.

Idra Novey is a novelist, poet, and translator. She is the award-winning author of the novels Those Who Knew and Ways to Disappear. Her work has been translated into ten languages and she’s translated numerous authors from Spanish and Portuguese, most recently Clarice Lispector. For her poetry and translation she has received awards from the PEN Translation Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

“It is staggering to encounter something that feels so truly new as Garous Abdolmalekian’s Lean Against This Hour. Turning its pages for the first time I felt myself literally gasping out loud, running to read my spouse this line or that poem. Paul Klee wrote about art that wanted to be ‘impelled toward motion and not to be the motor,’ and I feel this so deeply in these crisp translations of Abdolmalekian’s lively lyrics, that irreducible complexity of thinking—about growth, time, desire, trauma—rendered as vectors with staggering precision and disarming clarity: ‘Forest, you are a single tree fleeing the earth a thousand ways.’”
—Kaveh Akbar, author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf

“This book announces to the English-speaking world that there are, indeed, still great poets in our day and age. There is still the possibility for the lyric voice to assume something larger, to give shape and form to a myths and dreams that speak out of devastation. In these spare but beautiful, and unforgettably urgent lyrics, the war and memory are everywhere; they are the magnetic field that charges the pages of exquisite precision. Abdolmalekian is a poet who never gives in to the despair: out of history’s devastation comes a new and beautiful song. To put it simply: Garous Abdolmalekian is one of the most talented poets on the world scene today. It makes me endlessly happy that we now have his work in these beautiful, precise translations.”
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic 

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