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Iran Twenty Years Ago


Each summer, working there, Id set off for

The fabled cities Esfahan, Kashan,

Or Ecbatana, where Hephaestion died,

The poets towns Shiraz and Nayshapour,

Or sites now hardly more than villages

Lapped by the desert, Nain or Ardestan . . .


Their names now mean a dusty backstreet somewhere

Empty and silent in the vivid sunlight,

A narrow way between the high mud walls

The worn wood of the doors recessed in them

A talisman to conjure and withhold

The life and lives I never touched or knew.

Sometimes Id hear a voice, a radio,

But mostly there was silence and my shadow

Until a turn would bring me back to people,

Thoroughfares and shops . . .


                                              Why is it this that stays,

Those empty afternoons that never led

To anything but seemed their own reward

And are more vivid in my memory

Than mosques, bazaars, companionship, and all

The myriad details of an eight year sojourn;

As if that no epiphany, precisely,

Were the epiphany?  As Hafez has it,

To know you must have gone along that way;

I know they changed my life forever but

I know too that I could not tell myself

Much less another what it was I saw,

Or learnt, or brought back from those aimless hours.


Dick Davis



Dick Davis; originally printed in The Hudson Review.
Reprinted by permission of the author.


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