For Two Weeks I have been in this Palace. Nothing has Happened

Bijan Elahi

This poem offers a poetic retelling of a story in the Arabic A Thousand and One Nights, “The House and the Belvedere” (night 599). Elahi’s poem reproduces the phrasing of the Persian translation of A Thousand and One Nights by ʻAbd al-Laṭif Tasuji Tabrizi (1858).

Baghdad’s arches and the arches of the Tigris—
The story left unfinished
may turn into a poem and a poem
finished          can make a story. That’s why poets
always break the lines of their poems. And I want
from among those pointless walks around Baghdad
to break the line on a house in the bazaar
carpeted with many marbled stones in The Thousand and one Nights, where the ceilings
are painted turquoise and gold.
“Ten dinars a month for rent!”
“Are you kidding?”
“I’m not kidding,” the doorkeeper said, “but whoever enters the house
gets sick and within two weeks dies.”
For two weeks
I’ve been in this palace and nothing has happened.
I’ve only seen sunsets of gold:
you can hear them!
“Hey, boy, you haven’t seen the palace belvedere?” the doorkeeper’s wife said.
But what is on the roof
other than Baghdad’s arches and the arches of the Tigris—

یکی دو هفته میشود که توی این قصرم و هیچ اتفاق نیافتاده


تاقهای ضربیی بغداد و تاقهای ضربی دجله

قصه اگر ناتمام میماند

یحتمل که شعر میشد و شعر

در تمامیّتِ خود قصه میشود . به همین دلیل ، شاعران

همیشه ، جخت ، تقطیع میکنند و من میخواهم

ازان گشتهای بیحوصله در بغداد

تقطیع کنم روی خانهیی در بازار

که ، در الف لیل ، زمینش را

گونه گونه رخام گستردهاند و سقفهای غرفهها

به لاجورد و آبِ زر نقش کردهاند :

اجرتش ماهی ده دینار !

واقعاً راسته یا مسخرهام میکنید ؟ دربان گفت :

واقعاً راسته امّا هر که توی خانه بیاید

یکی دو هفته بیشتر نمیکشد مریض میشود میمیرد .

یکی دو هفته میشود

که توی قصرم و هیچ اتفاق نیافتاده است ؛

فقط غروبها طلاییست : میشود شنفت !

واقعاً چه غفلتی ! پسرم ! مگر هنوز

به بام قصر نرفتهای ؟ زنِ دربان گفت .

مگر از بامِ قصر چیست

جز همین تاقهای ضربیی بغداد و تاقهای ضربیی دجله


Bijan Elahi (1945-2010) was a modernist poet and a prolific translator of T.S. Eliot, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri Michaux, Friedrich Hölderlin, and many other major poets. He was both the founder and the most important representative of a poetry movement called Other Poetry (she’re digar). Elahi’s style is distinguished by its surrealistic imagination, its complex metaphors, and unusual collocations of words. Elahi developed an idiosyncratic and erudite form of poetic expression that included elements of ancient Iranian mythology, Persian Sufism, and French Surrealism. Reluctant to publish book-length collections of his work, Elahi refused to enter the public spotlight while he was alive and led a reclusive existence. His posthumously published poetry and translations have exerted a major influence on the younger generation of Persian poets. 

Rebecca Gould is a writer, translator, and scholar whose books include Writers and Rebels: The Literatures of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016), After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016), and The Prose of the Mountains: Tales of the Caucasus (Central European University Press, 2015). Her essays and translations have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, The Hudson Review, Nimrod, Asymptote (which nominated her for a Pushcart Prize), and Guernica, among many other venues. 

Kayvan Tahmasebian is an Iranian poet, translator, and literary critic. He is the author of Isfahan’s Mold (Sadeqia dar Bayat Esfahan, 2016), on the fiction of the short story writer Bahram Sadeqi, and a forthcoming volume on the poet Bijan Elahi. His translations include Giorgio Agamben’s Pilate and Jesus (Tehran, 2016) and The Idea of Prose (forthcoming). Tahmasebian has also translated Samuel Beckett, Arthur Rimbaud, T. S. Eliot, Francis Ponge, and Stephan Mallarme for various Iranian literary magazines.