Forough Farrokhzad was an Iranian poet and film maker known for her soulful, honest and often controversial work. She wrote with intensity about her subjective experience: ‘One can always be a zero,’ reads a line in this poem, Wind-Up Doll, which rails against the experience of living with ‘lifeless eyes’ and ‘stiff claws’, inside a ‘felt box, body stuffed with straw.’ An influence on contemporary Iranian artists like Abbas Kiarostami, and a poet in the line of her region’s greats like Rumi and Hafiz, Farrokhzad was only 32 years old when she died in a car accident.
Even more, oh yes,
one can remain silent even more.
Inside eternal hours
one can fix lifeless eyes
on the smoke of a cigarette,
on a cup’s form,
the carpet’s faded flowers,
or on imaginary writings on the wall.
With stiff claws one can whisk
the curtains aside, look outside.
It’s streaming rain.
A child with a balloon bouquet
cowers beneath a canopy. A rickety cart
flees the deserted square in haste.
One can remain fixed in one place, here
beside this curtain…but deaf, but blind.
With an alien voice, utterly false,
one can cry out: I love!
In the oppressive arms of a man
one can be a robust, beautiful female–
skin like leather tablecloth,
breasts large and hard.
One can stain the sinlessness of love
in the bed of a drunk, a madman, a tramp.
One can cunningly belittle
every perplexing puzzle.
Alone, occupy oneself with crosswords,
content with unimportant words,
yes, unimportant letters, no more than five or six.
One can spend a lifetime kneeling,
before the cold altar of the Imams,
find God inside an anonymous grave,
faith in a few paltry coins.
One can rot inside a mosque’s chamber,
an old woman, prayers dripping from lips.
Whatever the equation, one can always be a zero,
yielding nothing, whether added, subtracted, or multiplied.
One can think your eyes are buttons from an old ragged shoe
caught in a web of anger.
One can evaporate like water from one’s own gutter.
With shame one can hide a beautiful moment
like a dark, comic instant photo
rammed deep into a wooden chest.
Inside a day’s empty frame one can mount
the portrait of a condemned, a vanquished,
a crucified. Cover the gaps in the walls
with silly, meaningless drawings.
Like a wind-up doll one can look out
at the world through glass eyes,
spend years inside a felt box,
body stuffed with straw,
wrapped in layers of dainty lace.
With every salacious squeeze of one’s hand,
for no reason one can cry:
Ah, how blessed, how happy I am!