Gravequake and Death by Stoning – two poems by Ziba Karbassi


The song of the nightingale
Is not up for sale.
Tell your black crows tell Your black crows
Caw Caw

The song of the nightingale Is not up for sale.

And it’s is not a willow that trembles
It’s the frail figure of a woman.
She’s not a willow to tremble!
You, tremble!
It’s a woman on your grave
Who sleeps under you
Takes money and recites the Koran,

In the name of Allah
Slap cold whip money
Weeping insults ha! ha! money
Skin kiss fur coat mane money
Rouge pallor dignity money
Buys eats buys eats eats eats buys…

What! Graveyard? Fear? Are you kidding? You’re kidding, right?
A woman with rosy cheeks and breasts
Tears the white prayer veil off her head
Spreads it on your grave
And you do her.
Her thin body trembling
Her skinny arms and thighs trembling.
She’s not a willow to tremble!
You, tremble!
She has swallowed fear
She’ll swallow you too
Fear! You!
Down below there, up on top there,
You little man!
This woman is to be feared
Even dead, she is to be feared Hajji*
Even dead.
Happy grave,
Happy grave!

*A Muslim who has made the pilgrimag

Posted on Translationproject.

Read the original Persian poem here.


Death by Stoning (extract)

Last night wolves were howling
I heard their voices
last night
they brought me your torn clothes
the blue shirt your auntie made you
I wish her dear hand had been
your blue shirt is red with blood
and I cannot make out its print
or pattern

they said their skirts were filled with stones
their hands were full of stones, their skirts
everywhere stones were being rained down
the world was become a world
of stone

I wish
I wish
I wish
your mother were dead
I wish I were

your sister’s skirts
are full with blood
your brother is burning
the cradle of wood, can’t you
smell the smoke ?
look, I am not
scared any more
the wolf of my fear is hunted
by the tiger
of my venom
and I’ve become a fire monster
if I open my mouth
the whole earth will

Posted on MPT

Ziba Karbassi was born in 1974 in Tabriz, Iran. She left Iran in 1989 and now lives between London and Paris. She has published five volumes of poetry in Farsi, all outside Iran. Her poetry tackles difficult themes with a mastery of craft and has received wide critical attention. She has been translated into several languages. An volume of her poetry is being translated into English by Stephen Watts. She was recently voted as Director of the Association of Iranian Writers in Exile

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