Some time ago, a friend gave me a book of poetry by the Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (1928–1980). The book consists of a long poem, The Traveler, and a collection of shorter poems entitled We Nothing But Look.
The book contains the Farsi text and an English translation by Abbas Zahedi. I don’t speak Farsi, and so I cannot be sure how well the poet has been served by his translator; but the English seems a bit clunky to me, as the second title above indicates. Please bear this in mind when reading on.
In several of the shorter poems, Sepehri turns to mathematics for a title or image. Here a few examples.
From “O Zeal, O Antique”:
Water was so wet!
The wind appeared in the shape of a wandering obstinacy
I had spread all my geometrical assignments on the ground.
Some triangles drowned in water.
From “From Waters On”:
The unfamiliar chant of growth
Would sometimes echo
In the fragile joint of joy.
The knee of ascend
Would smear with dust.
The finger of evolution
Would stay solitary
In the meticulous geometry of sorrow.
From “Both Line and Blank”:
One should run to the end of Being
One should journey to the scent of soil of morality
One should reach the intersection of Tree and God.
One should settle
Somewhere between bewilderment and intuition.
From “The Ancient Context of Night”:
My hands are infinite
They pick fruit
From mythical boughs.
Each tree bears
Leaves as many as my fears.
And here is the last poem of the collection, “Presence Till Infinity”.
The gate of a strange dream
The wind will utter something
An apple will fall
Rolling over the Earth’s description
Going up to the presence of Night’s absent Homeland
The roof of an illusion will collapse.
Will perceive the melancholic intelligence of vegetation.
An ivy will ramble round God’s observation.
Secret will brim over.
The root of Time’s piety will rot.
On the way of Darkness
The blade of water’s talk will glisten.
The heart of Mirror will comprehend.
The stalk of meaning
Will be shaken
By the Friend’s breeze.
Amazement will scatter.
At the bottom of night
The vivid side of solitude.
It will dawn
In the very word of Dawn.