Iran News ...


What a Shovel Could Have Done

By Shahram Sheydayi
Translated Exclusively for Gallery Mamak (by Mamak Nourbakhsh)


It all started one night when I suddenly woke up and realized that I was feeling really well. I felt so good that I was shaking hands with everyone. I have no idea where all those imaginary people whom I was shaking hands with had come from. Then gradually I realized that this was my job: I was to shake hands with people even if it were to take fifty years.


I had to let my dad know.


'Your son!!


Get up!


Your son has to shake hands with people!


Get up!


How can you sleep like that when your son... yes, your son... '


I felt that one day these words, these very words I was writing, would be the end of me.  But what good did this feeling do me then ? This issue of shaking hands had become so serious that for an instant I imagined I had handed this story in to be typed; then I'd taken it and handed it to the editor. After reading it he had wanted it to be printed in this very issue. I'm thanking him and gripping his hand. But I took back my story saying that I'd not come to get it printed: I'd only come to shake hands.


It's strange. It's even strange for me why this issue is getting so big all of a sudden (please don't open a personal file). When I see my PJs I realize that things are changing.


"PJs", that's what I want to call my collection of poems. I shouldn't drag this one out either cause then it might turn out to be serious too. It's not impossible. Someone has to turn this into a PHD dissertation and put some fifteen to twenty years into it to do some critical research. (You've got to be joking, that way he'll never get his PHD). Even more ridiculous though would be if some European president were to take off his pants in the middle of some dynamic speech, even take off his PJs in his excitement. He could hold them up to the cameras and repeat: 'This! This! This is what has brought mankind advancement.'


 Why shouldn't the front pages of all the papers be filled with pictures of PJs?


I remember back in high school (told you he'd start up on his personal file) I didn't  get a good grade in my history class. I was real upset for a couple of days. Finally I realized why: that's right! I hadn't been wearing my PJs that day. Just as I'd guessed: my PJs had reacted and taken their revenge.


Grandfather died four days ago and we covered him with dirt.


I keep on looking at his picture. Then, when I'm not looking at him anymore, I don't know why but I get the feeling that he's looking at me. I have to say in the eighty four years of his life he had forgotten to say something but now that he's dead he's come back so that he can screw us up with that look in his eyes. The look is there in those pictures of his that are all over the house and in his obituary. Suddenly he's remembered that there's something he didn't say in his eighty plus years of life. Then with those strange eyes of his he insists on saying it!!


But what is it? 'What is it you want to say, Grand dad?'


It was the issue of the shovel that made me try to figure out if I really loved him or not. I never came to a conclusion. Then I told myself that I didn't know if I loved him or not.


The issue of the shovel:


When we put grandfather in the grave we covered him with dirt. We didn't do this with our feet and hands, we did it with that very instrument that is so familiar to everyone.


That's right! We did it with a shovel.


I don't know if he's cursing me now or not cause I was one of those who used that damned instrument someone had placed in my hands to...


In all honesty, Grandfather, I too covered you with dust!


From that moment this damned instrument, this cursed tool, has been coming to me in my dreams and wakefulness like it has come to life.


It would find the best part of my sleep and then  invade it. It would be right where I'd laid my pillow, my blanket, the place where I liked to rest and read or to listen to music when I'd come back home. Then it would surface right in the middle of the blanket leaning against the wall.


Another time: we were at my uncle's house and some visitors had come from the provinces. They each came in--there were quite a lot of them--greeted us, and expressed their condolences to either my uncle or to my father. Then right after the last person had entered, I don't know if it really was the last one or not, but there was a sound at the door. I opened the door and the shovel entered. I know that no one could see it except for myself. They'd set the table and I'd see the shovel lying right in the middle of it. It would be on one of the couches.  By the fireplace. The real meaning of the presence of the shovel, or better to say the translation of the situation it took over, is precisely this: 'Yes, I'm a shovel, I am a shovel, the shovel is me, I myself am a shovel.'


When I look at the root of the behavior of this shovel I grasp the meaning. After the Inculcation Ceremony[1](Grandfather, for your sake if for no other reason I had to ask someone and find the meaning of the word. More negligence!), when they lay a corpse in the grave those around the grave, particularly relatives, pick up the shovel to throw in dirt. Each person is allowed to throw in a few shovels full. Once he is done the shovel is 'thrown to the ground'. Then someone else has to pick it up while the others furtively look on.


As you can see I've put 'thrown to the ground' in quotations.


Now it's clear to you too why the shovel reacted, was unable to accept the situation and why it kept on showing itself to me. Eventually the shovel would have had to do this sometime otherwise the real dialectic would have been left incomplete. Now the shovel is at peace and it's taught me (with all the hatred I have developed for it) that yes, I too loved grandfather.

[1] In a Shiite burial service, after the corpse has been placed in the grave one of the gravediggers enters the grave to shake the dead person while another recites the history of his Shiite belief to him.

... Payvand News - 05/19/09 ... --

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