Performance of Forugh Farrokhzad Poems in Persian and English by poet Sholeh Wolpe and musician Sahba Motalelbi.

All the following poems are from: Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad,  translated by Sholeh Wolpe

I have sinned a rapturous sin
in a warm enflamed embrace,
sinned in a pair of vindictive arms,
arms violent and ablaze.
In that quiet vacant dark
I looked into his mystic eyes, 
found such longing that my heart
fluttered impatient in my breast.
In that quiet vacant dark
I sat beside him punch-drunk,
his lips released desire on mine,
grief unclenched my crazy heart.
I poured in his ears lyrics of love:
O my life, my lover it’s you I want.
Life-giving arms, it’s you I crave. 
Crazed lover, for you I thirst.
Lust enflamed his eyes, 
red wine trembled in the cup,
my body, naked and drunk, 
quivered softly on his breast.
I have sinned a rapturous sin
beside a body quivering and spent.
I do not know what I did O God,
in that quiet vacant dark.  

–Forugh Farrokhzad, trans. Sholeh Wolpe                

photo by Sholeh Wolpe

Wind-Up Doll
Even more, oh yes,
one can remain silent even more.
Inside eternal hours
one can fix lifeless eyes
on the smoke of a cigarette,
on a cup’s form,
the carpet’s faded flowers,
or on imaginary writings on the wall.
With stiff claws one can whisk  
the curtains aside, look outside. 
It’s streaming rain. 
A child with a balloon bouquet 
cowers beneath a canopy. A rickety cart 
flees the deserted square in haste.
One can remain fixed in one place, here 
beside this curtain…but deaf, but blind.
With an alien voice, utterly false, 
one can cry out: I love!
In the oppressive arms of a man
one can be a robust, beautiful female–
skin like leather tablecloth, 
breasts large and hard.
One can stain the sinlessness of love 
in the bed of a drunk, a madman, a tramp.
One can cunningly belittle 
every perplexing puzzle.
Alone, occupy oneself with crosswords,
content with unimportant words,
yes, unimportant letters, no more than five or six.
One can spend a lifetime kneeling,
head bowed, 
before the cold altar of the Imams,
find God inside an anonymous grave,
faith in a few paltry coins.
One can rot inside a mosque’s chamber,
an old woman, prayers dripping from lips.
Whatever the equation, one can always be a zero,
yielding nothing, whether added, subtracted, or multiplied.
One can think your eyes are buttons from an old ragged shoe 
caught in a web of anger.
One can evaporate like water from one’s own gutter.
With shame one can hide a beautiful moment
like a dark, comic instant photo
rammed deep into a wooden chest.
Inside a day’s empty frame one can mount 
the portrait of a condemned, a vanquished, 
a crucified. Cover the gaps in the walls 
with silly, meaningless drawings.
Like a wind-up doll one can look out 
at the world through glass eyes,
spend years inside a felt box,
body stuffed with straw, 
wrapped in layers of dainty lace. 
With every salacious squeeze of one’s hand,
for no reason one can cry: 
Ah, how blessed, how happy I am!

–Forugh Farrokhzad, trans. Sholeh Wolpe

Photo by Sholeh Wolpe

The Gift
I speak from the deep end of night.
Of end of darkness I speak.
I speak of deep night ending.
O kind friend, if you visit my house,
bring me a lamp, cut me a window,
so I can gaze at the swarming alley of the fortunate.

–Forugh Farrokhzad, trans. Sholeh Wolpe

photo by Sholeh Wolpe

In Night’s Cold Streets
I don’t repent,  
thinking of this resignation, this pained surrender.
I’ve kissed my life’s cross
on the hills of my execution.
In night’s cold streets
couples always part
In night’s cold streets
there are no sounds, just voices 
calling Goodbye, goodbye.
I don’t repent.
It’s as if my heart flows 
on the other side of time.
Life will echo my heart, 
and the dandelion seeds sailing 
the wind’s lakes will re-create me.
Do you see how my skin 
is cracking wide?
How milk forms
in my breast’s cold blue veins?
How blood begins to form sinew 
in my patient loins?
I am you, you,
and one who loves,
one who suddenly finds in herself
a dumb grafting to a thousand strange unknowns.
I’m the earth’s ferocious lust
sucking all the waters in 
to impregnate the fields.
Listen to my distant voice
in the heavy mist of dawn’s prayer chants,
and in silent mirrors see how 
with what is left of my hands 
I touch, once more, all dreams’ innermost dark, 
and imprint my heart like a bloodstain
on life’s innocent riches. 
I don’t repent.
Darling, speak to me
of another me
with the same lovesick eyes 
whom you’ll find again in the cold streets of night.
And think of me in her sad kiss
on the sweet lines beneath your eyes.

–Forugh Farrokhzad, trans. Sholeh Wolpe

Links to other published poems and articles :

Best American Poetry

Words Without Borders

Love and Pomegranates

World Literature Today

Verse Daily

Poetry at Sangam

Tripwire Journal

Sentinel Literary Quarterly

The Daily Star

The Poetry Foundation

Words Without Borders

War Resister’s League

Self Talk

Can Translation Save the World