A Nightingale in the Cage of My Breast
by Farzaneh Khojandi, translated by Jo Shapcott with Narguess Farzad
In this leafy orchard is a nightingale,
a nightingale whose songs are the dawn
and take me into the light,
to the mountains of legendary Farhad,
and to the place where mad Majnun talks to the raven:
‘Hello gorgeous!’ And to that lucky cave,
luminous with solitude, basking in gold,
and to a paradise where Adam and Eve stare at a wheat
‘Shall we taste it or not?’ If I were Eve, I wouldn’t taste it.
Thank goodness I’m not Eve or else mankind
would never forgive me for not sinning.
O tiny, miraculous wheat grain, O tiny apple of amazement,
O simple beginnings of myself.
There is a nightingale who sings my see through thoughts,
sings back to the beginning of memory.
There is a nightingale flying out of the cage of my breast;
it’s chirping now at the edge of morning.
I am leaving; I am leaving, my friend.
You have to step into life, spread your existence,
you must hurry,
you must bring to Farhad in the story,
the good news about Shirin, his beloved,
you must enter Zoroaster’s cave
and taste the light.
To taste the wheat grain of paradise – or not? O…
I am leaving, I am leaving at last:
my friend, open your heart for me.
Born in the remote Khojand province of Tajikistan in 1964, Farzaneh Khojandi is widely regarded as the most exciting woman poet writing in Persian (Farsi, Tajik) today and has a huge following in Iran and Afghanistan as well as in Tajikistan, where she is simply regarded as the country’s foremost living writer. Her frequently playful and witty poetry draws on the rich tradition of Persian literature in an often subversive and humorous way. Find the original poem in Tajik, or read more about the poem, poets, and translation process at the Poetry Translation Centre website.