(Little pond of “Now” is the name I have given to a selection from Sohrab Sepehri’s long poem Water’s Footfall.*)
Little pond of "Now" I hear the garden breathing, and the sound of darkness, as it trickles down from the leaves. And the sound of light, clearing its throat behind the trees. I am near the beginning of the Earth. I take the pulse of the flowers. I know the wet destiny of water, the green habit of the trees. My soul flows towards the fresh beaconing of objects. My soul is quite young. My soul sometimes gives a whoop of delight. My soul has nothing to do, it counts the falling raindrops, and the rows of bricks on the wall. My soul is sometimes as real as a rock on the road. Life is a welcome tradition. Life has a wingspan the size of death, has a leap the size of love. Life is not something to put on the mantle of habits and forget. Life is the ecstasy of the hand that picks. Life is the taste of the first pick of black figs, in the astringent mouth of summer. Life is the depth and breadth of a tree, as it appears to an insect. Life is what the bat experiences in darkness. Life is the strange sensation a migratory bird feels. Life is the whistle of a train, echoing inside the dream of a railway bridge. Life is watching a backyard garden from your window seat on a plane. The news of a rocket launching into space, touching the loneliness of the moon, the thought of smelling flowers on another heavenly body. Life is washing the dishes. Life is spotting a penny in the puddle. Life is the square root of the mirror. Life is a flower to the power of eternity. Life is the Earth multiplied by our heart rate. Life is the simple harmonious geometry of our collective breath. No matter where I am, the sky is mine, the window, thoughts, air, love, earth, all are mine. No matter if the mushrooms of homesickness keep popping now and then. I don’t know why they say horse is a noble animal, that dove is lovely? And why no one keeps a vulture in their birdcage? Why is the clover flower seen as less than the red tulip? Wash our eyes, we should, see in a different light, we should. Wash the words, we should. The word for wind, the wind itself should be, the word for rain, the rain itself should be. Fold the umbrellas, we should. Walk under the rain, we should, take with us our memories, ideas, we should. Life is about getting wet…repeatedly.. Life is taking a dip, in the little pond of “Now”. Let’s take off our clothes, the water is just a step away. Let’s taste the light. Let’s plant a seedling on every turn of our speech, and sow the seeds of silence, in between every other syllable. Let’s not read any book that no wind blows inside it, neither a book that dewdrops are not moist inside it. Let’s not ask where we are, let’s smell the fresh petunias of the hospital. Let’s not ask for the address, of the fountain of good fortune. Let’s not ask why the heart of truth is blue. Let’s not ask about the breezy nights that our forefathers enjoyed. Past behind, there are no lively spaces. Past behind, the bird does not sing. Past behind, the wind does not blow. Past behind, the green window of the pine tree is shut. Past behind, all the pinwheels are covered in dust. Past behind, only the weariness of history can be found. Past behind, imprints of the surf hit the shore with cold shells of doldrums. Let’s go to the sea, cast our nets, and catch the freshness of the water. Let’s pick a pebble from the ground. Let’s feel the weight of being. Let’s not speak ill of the moonlight, when we have a high fever. Sometimes, it’s taken a sore wound in my foot, to teach me the ups and downs of the earth. Sometimes in my sickbed, I have experienced a flower expanding manifold, and the diameter of an orange increased, so did the radius of the lantern. Let’s have no fear of death. Death is not the end of the dove. Death brings about the beauty of the butterfly wings. Death sometimes picks sweet basils. Death sometimes drinks vodka. Sitting in the shade, it sometimes just looks at us. And we all know, the lungs of pleasure are filled with the oxygen of death. Let’s not shut the door on the lively utterances of destiny, that can be heard past the hedges of cacophony. Let’s lift the curtains: Allow the feelings to take a breath of fresh air. Allow puberty to spend the night under whichever bush it pleases to. Allow the instincts to play, to take off shoes and jump over the flowers in chase of the seasons. Allow solitude to sing, to write, to go on the road. Let’s be simple, be simple everywhere, at a bank teller’s window or under a tree. Our work here is not to unriddle the mystery of the rose. Perhaps our work here is to swim in the magic of the rose. To set up camp beyond knowledge, to wash hands in the ecstasy of a leaf and join the feast. To be born again every morning on the Sunrise. To let our delights fly up in the sky. To sprinkle, make fresh, perceptions, space, colour, sound, the window. To situate the sky, between the two syllables of being. To inhale, to exhale, lungs filled with eternity. To take the load of knowledge off, swallow’s shoulders. To un-name the cloud, the maple tree, the mosquito, the summer. To climb the heights of kindness, walking on the wet feet of the rain. To open the doors to humanity, to the light, plants, and to insects. Perhaps our work here is to run after the chant of truth, at the threshold of the lotus and century. [Sohrab Sepehri – Kashan, summer of 1964]
* Publication of Water’s Footfall (صدای پای آب in Persian) is considered a watershed moment in Sohrab Sepehri’s working life. The full poem is a long loosely autobiographical work that takes the reader on a silky subtle road through a journey of self-discovery. A journey to nowhere which nonetheless can culminate in lifting the veils of the familiar-self to intimately experience one as one with the nature and all that exists. It has the potential to put us hand in hand with our true nature in a poetic yet palpable earthly manner.
Little pond of “Now” ( حوضچه اکنون in Persian) is my title for a selection of this wonderous poem.
Several English translations of Water’s Footfall exist, but I love this poem so much that I simply felt like picking a few parts and translating them. I would like to give due credit to Karim Emami’s translation which I had access to and some lines might be similar or the same. Though his translation is called “Water’s Footsteps“.
Sohrab Sepehri was a prominent Persian poet and painter (1928-1980). You can read his biography in my other post: Sohrab Sepehri: a biography . The following overview is an excerpt borrowed from Encyclopaedia Iranica.
A panoramic view on Sepehri’s collected creative output reveals that he ranks among the poets and painters whose work is not only based on a particular set of aesthetic values, but is further informed by a consciously selected set of tenets appropriated from a broad range of cultures and worldviews.
Above all, he believed in the importance of people’s direct relationship with nature, one unencumbered by the anesthetizing effect of daily habits and preoccupations with preconceived ideas. Unwavering in his belief in a delicate yet essential unity between mankind, nature, and a greater cosmic order, Sepehri spent the length of his artistic life in search of the most effective expression of this central belief. To this end, he freely crossed over to a variety of myths and philosophies ranging from Zen Buddhism and Taoism to Sufism and European Romanticism, retaining from each those tenets most organically suitable to his vision.
And in accord with all of these worldviews, he came to believe that while a higher unifying truth was innate in all of creation and the knowledge of it intuitively available to all mankind, a conclusive understanding of it was impossible, and the search for it a life-long journey for all.