Poems of Place — Rebecca Gould

The Arches of Isfahan

When we recited poetry in Isfahan,
the Bridge of Thirty-Three Arcs
stretched to embrace the firmament.

The songs you brought to life
were meteorites, detonating
in the sockets of our eyes.

If time had been reversed,
the poet’s tomb would have
been our pilgrimage.

Water would have flowed
from the Ziandeh’s shores,
and every point on the bridge

would have punctured
the sky’s demand
for release from the earth.

But time had no time—
and eternity no purpose—
for our aimless meandering.

So I took the book
you left for me,
without saying goodbye.


Damascus in the Month of Ramadan

There is no straight man in the world
said starry eyed Rima, as we returned
from the Damascus book fair where,
for the hundredth time, I fell in love.

No straight man in the world—
only cheaters, pimps, addicts, and bores.
Rima passed her days on the rooftop
watching the world unfurl,

watching her rivals fall in love.
She once had a man more beautiful
than herself, she said.
She didn’t want children

Just a touch, a hand
Someone to grant release from
her celestial observatory,
someone to aim arrows at her stars.

Damascus in the month of Ramadan
is an affliction that multiplies hourly
the hunger inside, the longing to be touched,
until roof banging at dawn brings prayer.

I thought I had bested Rima’s forecasts.
Until the plane landed and I tried
to remember the name of the book fair man
whose smile had stolen my heart.

His syllables merged with others’ words.
His nomadic soul hitched onto Rima’s stars.

Rebecca Gould  is a writer, scholar, and translator of Russian, Persian, and Georgian poetry, and the author of Writers and Rebels (Yale University Press) and After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press). She teaches translation studies and Russian literature at the University of Bristol. Other work has appeared in Nimrod, The Hudson Review, and Guernica.

Image: Curves of Ali-Qapu, Hamed Saber, Creative Commons