Sadness

They smell your mouth

in case you said, ‘I love you.’

They smell your heart

in case there is a flame hidden in it.

It’s a strange time, beloved.

And they whip Love at the roadside post.

One must hide love in the pantry.[1]

In this twisted wintry cul-de-sac

the fire

is kept burning

with the fuel of anthems and poetry.

Do not risk thinking.

It’s a strange time, beloved,

He who pounds on the door at night time

has come to kill the lantern.

One must hide light in the pantry.

Now the butchers are stationed at every crossroads

with bloodied block and cleaver.

It’s a strange time, beloved.

And they carve a smile on the lips

and a song on the mouth.

One must hide joy in the pantry

The canary becomes a kebab

on the fires of rose and jasmine

It’s a strange time, beloved.

The drunken victorious demon

is feasting at the table of our death.

God too must be hidden in the pantry.

Ahmad Shamlou (1925-2000) tr. Martin and Farah Turner


[1] Pastou … hidden inner room or sanctum for food storage.

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