At evening prayer in exile
There has been a lecture at Leiden University, given by a man in Persian poetry by the name of Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, on exilic impulse in Persian poetry, that he presented as a sort of constant historical tendency, since its beginning in an Abu Hafs Sughdi's one-liner, some eleven centuries ago (9th/10th century CE).
Gems of wisdom coming to me through one of those languages that formed translocal literary spheres long before colonial empires make me muse on my own exile. Like this one: If the tree had legs, it wouldn't be fallen.
I also muse on local allegiances of those eternal Persian exilic poets; basically, they belonged to a mother town, quite away from an abstract ideas such as "Iran". It was from their city they were exiled.
And the speaker also mentioned Hafiz, that had probably never left Shiraz, and nonetheless developed an exilic imagination quite of his own, in which the whole world becomes a place of exile.
And I jotted down this little verse in an English translation, telling me that what happened to me between Kraków and Leiden is just a part of a universal destiny:
At evening prayer in exile, as I begin to cry
I sing so many stories of exiles,
And I felt so intensely the beauty of a sunset expressed in the melody of the verse alone. Do you speak Farsi?, someone asked. Of course I don't. But how touching and soul-boggling it is to be in Leiden, an evening of exile, sitting in the last row at the university, among those long-date emigrants who had fled Iran in 1979, at the moment of a revolution about which I remember vaguely to have heard as a child, hearing them recite verses in a tongue that echoes through such an expanse of earth and time.
And then there was another Persian poetry man by the name of Ashgar Seyed-Ghorab, who spoke about cracking the fragile cup of the moon, and about a Satanic verse of Nader Naderpour (1929-2000), and about a hair of Khomeini that people believed to find in every single copy of the Qur'an in every single household in Iran. About the mixture of diabolic and divine that keeps us on the move across the world.
And it makes me remember all the Persian books I put my hands on many years ago, like that Blind Owl of Sadegh Hedayat that shuttered me so young, so durably. Which is Boof-e koor, بوف کور, as I learn now, stepping on a new level of my Leidse erudition.
Leiden, 15th November 2019