Mansour Noorbakhsh, Iran


Vital Signs


A prisoner was killed by another one
while the jailers were working, literally.
The prison’s walls encircled the prisoner,
as well as the racketeer prisoners.
He was slain with no protest.
His free will was killed before his body,
and the law was strongly followed up
by the walls of the prison.
I remember: I have watched this movie
sometime, before I met You, Woman.
Where did you find my absence?
Were we able to escape the war, literally?
Why do walls extend as far as a prisoner escapes?
How do wars mirror free will?
How do mirrors change images?
How do things change in our minds?
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Have you ever had me in your dreams?
How have you appeared in mine?
I am something in the afternoon,
like our travel toward sunset.
In this train, I appeared as a dream—
as a shadow, as a truth, as a lie.
How do you try to see the truth?
Will you ever see mine?

Look at me, but not as God.
Come with me, as in your dreams.
Not even as myself.
There is no stream of certainty.
We were somewhere
when you came for a breath.
We shared a wish together
as you decided to leave.
Where did I come from?
Where did you discover my absence?
Was it between this train’s passengers
as it moved toward an unknown destination?
In the yellow light of an afternoon,
flowing through the train’s window.
As autumn leaves.
As moving toward nowhere—
In Search of Shared Wishes | 3
as an anxiety,
as a doubt.

The train stopped—you, Woman, ran to catch a bus.
I felt banished, but incisive.
No direction, but moving.
Can anxiety redeem us?
I asked you, thinking of help.
You turned.
You and the blind boy looked at me.
That was the first, the last, and the only image.
Tree shadows in the meadow.
Bird nests on the trees.
We were, all three, looking …
You, at the green meadow
I, at the grey birds.
The blind boy was looking at me.
You told me, “It is homesickness.”
To him, “the birds exist by migrating.”
It was the start of dark.
It was the start of cold.
He was looking at the stranger—at me.

Fear is the absence of love.
When did I try to find a direction?
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Upon the halted train,
I was lost—I was denied.
I felt: “I became lost while the faith was absent.”
Oh, migrant Adam and Eve, how did the songs of
Paradise sound?
What did you sing as a lullaby?
How did you tell a glory tale?
Your children have lost the songs beneath so many images;
blind of all legends,
they only blow the words.
Oh, Adam and Eve,
were you together
in your departure
from Paradise?
Did you ever talk together
behind a window?
Or kiss over the glass of a station door?
Or wait to see each other,
hearing each other’s voice
after so long
in some electronic device?
My heart sighs a ballad.
Only my shadow grows.
I live in the grey shadow.
My song is unclear—a sigh,
and some minced words.
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My children have no lullaby.
Where is my green meadow?
Which trees give me rest?
Which birds give me song?
Where do fountains call my thirst?
Oh, Raven1
how I wish you’d stolen Hoopoe2
Was I able to make a new world?
Was I able to refuse it?
You know the answer was “no.”
I decided to say nothing
and go nowhere.
The first thing war steals from everyone
is free will.
I decided …
But, with the first rays of sunlight—
or a star’s, shining in the night—
the strength of this nonstop challenge
was flowing from my eyes,
into my hands and my heart,
like the bright blue glow of
a far-off star
1 Raven is an animal spirit in Native North American mythology who is
said to have stolen the sun and brought it to the earth.
2 Hoopoe is a bird that is the symbol of guidance in Iranian literature.
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at the
expanse of the sky.
Let me close my eyes.
Let me come to your dream.
In your dream, the strength is infinite,
and free will is pure.
Beauty is beauty,
and hope is reality.
I must see with my heart.
I need to see with my lips
through your dream,
that hidden fire,
that strength.

How did You, Woman, try to describe
what illusion means to the blind boy?
He was blind—blind.
How did he perceive an illusion so?
Trees were unreachable for him.
He was touching the stems and leaves.
He was looking with his hands.
He was seeing with his lips.
You smiled.
I breathed—deeply.
The blind boy asked,
“Is Sun’s ray the entire Sun?”
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You were looking at us.
Day was ending.
The meadow was turning to grey.
Yet, there was still one last ray,
there, in your shining eyes,
and your smiling lips.
Let me look deeply into you
Let me close my eyes.
Let me re-find myself.
I was lost—I was denied.
Don’t let memories become mist.
The blind boy shouted, “Memories are not blind.”
You, Woman, were looking after us
while the blind boy was looking at me.
You saw two of us in a nursery.
Then you were telling a story—
a dream, a lullaby for us—
a whispered song for the blind and lost.

A luminous star has dropped to the earth
as the earth was coming out of darkness,
while we were still asleep at dawn.
A little before sunrise,
with the first flush of morning,
an angel became a resident of Earth.
For this he had wished and prayed
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for such a long time
as a sad angel,
sad from watching sad people.
He had wished to start a change.
He had wanted to establish justice—
to remove lies and crime,
to ignite the light of love.
Then, he came in on a prayer.
One day, his prayers were accepted,
And he dropped
into a small village
as a drop of light,
as dew on a dying leaf.
Then the doors closed behind him.
He was on Earth
with humankind
and their houses, animals, needs, poverty,
and riches.
He looked at the sky
and heard the sound as the door locked.
He was alone thereafter,
and the day was starting—
a dry and dying day,
while the drought inflamed the village.

You, Woman, were looking at us.
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We were looking at you.
We were walking together,
and you were telling us the story, singing.
The meadow was turning black.
I was looking at you.
You were looking nowhere.
The blind boy was looking at the meadow
that was swallowing the last beam of light.
The angel left the sky as he wished,
and there was no way back.
He should stay and live
as a human—
anxious, eager.
Was he prepared, then?
Was he ready for life
as a resident of Earth,
with its rights and wrongs?
He looked again at the sky.
He prayed again—now on the earth—
Ardent and insistent demands
with tears welling up
like a newborn child
at the start of life.
Then he received his answer:
“You will have three true wishes
in case of trouble—
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just three.
The moment you wish for something,
it will happen.
Go and believe in your prayer.
Go and live your dream.
Go and start your life.”
Then he started to walk
with shaking knees.
He looked at his hands—
his first look at himself.
He had never done so before.


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