Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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I Once was a Poet

by Cyrus Mahan

I was once a poet,
In a far distant land.
My people were absorb my poems
They were telling me:

It cures depression
It is against oppression.
It is a bullet in the heart of repression.

I was once a poet.
But you know how things are there;
In my land
If you are a poet
They will come for you
If you are not a poet
They will make you a poet
They will beat you until you confess you are a poet.
Over there
Being a poet is dangerous sphere, my dear.

But if you are a poet
Dont say you are a poet
In fact;
You are a poet
But only you know you are a poet.
Or so better be.

They dont know you are a poet
Or so better be
For if they do
Then your head will blow
Or your body will flow
Even when the car is so slow

All of a sudden
You may decide not to come home,
If you are a poet.

In my land
Dreams and deaths
Poet and pain
Are close friends, you know.

I was once a poet
Not here, of course.
In my land
I was a poet
That is what the people told me

I was once a poet
And my poems
Blistering through the cement walls
And landing in far faraway lands
On my people’s hands
My poems
Not knowing the fear.

It is true
And God make me a stone
If I am not telling you the truth.

I was once a poet
And the prisons walls were shaking from the bullets of my words
I had transformed the vocabularies into bullets
And the jails
Were trembling from their bases
And the guards
The guards were hunting the air for my words.

The cement, the stones, the jails and the guards were all wavering
But that was in my land.

In your land
You don’t accept me as a poet.

But I was once a poet.
If you don’t believe me
Go and see for yourself
Go and see the latticed walls of the prisons
They are either by my words
Or else
The bullets that shattered the hearts of the other poets

You know how things are there
The firing squad sits and shoots
And the poets go down and the blood, the poetry and the bullets
All go through the wall.

In my land
I was a poet.
If you are a poet
You write your poems on the walls
Or a piece of paper, if you find
It might be a cigarette box
Then you eat them,
The poem and the cigarette box
So that the guard
Cannot put them ablaze.

You know
Things are different over there
You call it rough.

If you write poetry
Here comes the military

with your words
with 72 tools of onslaught
They might put your head
In a plastic bag
And open the gas

Or iron you hot
Like a piece of cloth
Or hang you for days
From the ceiling of fates.

Or if they are kind
Lash you few hundred times
Then you have to walk
With your feet merged into blood,
For if you don’t
The trace will tell it all.

Here if you write a good poem
You might get a prize
If you write a bad poem
You might be fried.

In a distant land
I was once a poet.
Though with a limited access to the words
I was still a poet

Loads of words are forbidden, you know.
A poet cannot write: Red, Black, Sun, Moon, Night, and Light

With the language of Morse,
Floating the cells and jails
My poems
Erupted the prison walls and landed on the lands
Where people drank them at a glance.

In my peoples hands,
My poems were passing on and on.

Blistering the cement of cubes and traveling with the speed of sound;
From the solitary confinement,
I would put the guards,
In state of trance
And then reach my people
In a swift glance.

I am coming from a distant terra firma
A land that having a funeral
If you are a poet,
Is opulence.
Funeral granted to those who
Do nothing, see nothing, and hear nothing.

Over there,
Although I did not have access to all the words,
And wasn’t thinking of having a funeral
I was still a poet.

But in your land,
I am still writing the same poems,
Believe me it is the same poems even better.

That used to smash the cement of jails.
And the padlocks and the police,
Could not even spot them soaring out
But here,
They cannot fracture the thin tone.

You know how things are here.
See! In your land
My poems
Travel at a snail's pace
From once being traveled
With the speed of sound.
From breaking the prison walls
To not breaking the thin air.
Believe me or not
I am still a poet.

© 2003 Cyrus Mahan

Cyrus Mahan is a prominent Iranian writer and poet living out of his country since 1986. He has published numerous articles, short stories and poems, all concerned with the Iranian struggle for freedom, democracy and equality. He was arrested two times when Shah (the monarch) was in power, and spent four years in jail during this present regime. Critics consider him the most socially conscious poet and writer of to day's Iran.

Find more by Cyrus Mahan in the Author Index.

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