Intoxicated by Verses
Even the Persian translation,
the small print beneath
each calligraphed line
was in another language.
How scholarly I was at ten,
squatting cross-legged on the floor,
hunched over my book of spells,
spread daily on my knees.
It was forbidden to touch the verses.
With the whole length of my arm,
I turned the pages from one corner
of the magic world to another,
careful not to scare the sacred and the gold
accents suspended about the Arab words,
twinkling like little blades on the page.
It was forbidden to recite in a foreign tongue.
How I loved the hard tongue of God
pushing consonants to the back of my throat,
slicing my lips with long vowels,
to pull gently on my breath with surahs.
Incantations rose in secret
from inside my white chador--
a floating tent, sown with sunny
daisies, smiling like childhood.
I drank from the turquoise banks,
the hand-painted margins that hemmed in faith
and bred pretty flowers I was allowed to touch.
I rocked softly to and fro
to the verses rising sibylline
from my pliant throat,
until hollowed and airy, I sat an erect dome
on my bedroom floor
encircled by birds of praise, nesting, singing
flying in and out of my chador.
Each surah was an incomprehensible spell
uttered from my proud minaret,
and my cupped hands before me
an invitation extended,
for God to join me
and dance on the naked waters
of my childhood.
Later it was forbidden to dance.
Rooja Mohassessy is an Iranian-American living in California. She is currently pursuing an MFA in poetry at Pacific University.
Editor's note: Iranian Artist Bahman Mohasses was a prolific artist working in sculpture, assemblage, and painting, as well as theatre and literary translation. He studied, worked and lived between Italy and Iran. He is known as the "Persian Picasso" and is considered by many to be most prominent Iranian artist of the past century. Many of his works were destroyed by the Iranian authorities during the Islamic Revolution, and the artist later destroyed many works himself. Remaining works are rare and in high demand by collectors. The Iranian-American poet Rooja Mohassessy is his niece.
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