Fiction: Where did the title “Life is Perhaps” come from?

forough2The title of my book Life is Perhaps was snatched from “Another Birth”,  a poem by the most famous female poet Iran has ever produced – the tragic and sublimely talented Ms. Forough Farrokhzad.  The following is excerpted from a biographical sketch by Melissa Barnhardt in Rozaneh Magazine:  “The modern Iranian Poetess Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967) virtually “opened the windows” of Iranian poetry to real relationships and the real world. While Persian poetry had already been somewhat liberated by the free verse of the 1920s, her frank presentation of feelings about loving, sexual relationships was revolutionary. She did the unthinkable, not only writing about intimacy in a predominantly Shiite Moslem society, but writing about it from an utterly honest, utterly feminine point of view. Without fear, she said what had always been forbidden, inwards that had never before appeared in a literary work…

Incredibly, her impressive ability caused initial shock to give way to the overwhelming admiration of the educated and the young. Secure in her voice, she broadened her concern to include natural, honest relationships within the Iranian social order. Finally, she began to emphasize a dialogue with the rest of the earth, and an openness to the entire natural universe, as her once specifically Persian images of fundamental relationship (the wall, the window, the mirror, the streets, and the garden and the sun, etc.) were suddenly galvanized with universal force.


Perhaps she dared fate by her extremely public living of a life that defied stultifying restriction. The daughter of a military colonel, she married at sixteen, published her first volume of poems at seventeen, gave birth to a son at eighteen, and was divorced before her twentieth birthday. Not long after the divorce she was prevented from seeing her son ever again. Her increasingly mature volumes of poetry included The Captive, The Wall, Rebellion, the important Another Birth, and the posthumously published Let Us Have Faith in the Beginning of the Cold Season. She studied film production as result of her liaison with the Iranian intellectual and film maker Ibrahim Golestan, and won the prize for documentaries at the 1963 Uberhausen, Germany Film Festival, with her film about a leper colony in Tabriz, Iran. In 1965, UNESCO produced a 30 minute film on her life, and Bernardo Bertolucci, a 15 minute film. In 1967, she was planning to play the lead role in a Tehran stage production of her Persian translation of Shaw’s St. Joan, when she met her untimely death in an automobile crash.”


The world awaits a seminal translation of Farrokhzad’s poems into English, but until that day here is a translation of an excerpt of “Another Birth” by Karim Emami:


My whole being is a dark chant

which will carry you

perpetuating you

to the dawn of eternal growths and blossoming

in this chant I sighed you sighed

in this chant

I grafted you to the tree to the water to the fire.


Life is perhaps

a long street through which a woman holding

a basket passes every day


Life is perhaps

a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch

life is perhaps a child returning home from school.


Life is perhaps lighting up a cigarette

in the narcotic repose between two love-makings

or the absent gaze of a passerby

who takes off his hat to another passerby

with a meaningless smile and a good morning .


Life is perhaps that enclosed moment

when my gaze destroys itself in the pupil of your eyes

and it is in the feeling

which I will put into the Moon’s impression

and the Night’s perception.


In a room as big as loneliness

my heart

which is as big as love

looks at the simple pretexts of its happiness

at the beautiful decay of flowers in the vase

at the sapling you planted in our garden

and the song of canaries

which sing to the size of a window.



this is my lot

this is my lot

my lot is

a sky which is taken away at the drop of a curtain

my lot is going down a flight of disused stairs

a regain something amid putrefaction and nostalgia

my lot is a sad promenade in the garden of memories

and dying in the grief of a voice which tells me

I love

your hands.


I will plant my hands in the garden

I will grow I know I know I know

and swallows will lay eggs

in the hollow of my ink-stained hands.


I shall wear

a pair of twin cherries as ear-rings

and I shall put dahlia petals on my finger-nails

there is an alley

where the boys who were in love with me

still loiter with the same unkempt hair

thin necks and bony legs

and think of the innocent smiles of a little girl

who was blown away by the wind one night.


There is an alley

which my heart has stolen

from the streets of my childhood.


The journey of a form along the line of time

inseminating the line of time with the form

a form conscious of an image

coming back from a feast in a mirror


And it is in this way

that someone dies

and someone lives on.


No fisherman shall ever find a pearl in a small brook

which empties into a pool.


I know a sad little fairy

who lives in an ocean

and ever so softly

plays her heart into a magic flute

a sad little fairy

who dies with one kiss each night

and is reborn with one kiss each dawn.

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