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A poem by Simin Behbahani: "Not one, not two ...they were five"


By: Staff, National Iranian American Council (NIAC)

NIAC is pleased to present a new poem by the Lioness of Iran, Simin Behbahani. A champion of human rights, Behbahani is in Iran and has been banned from leaving the country. Prof. Fatemeh Keshavarz of Washington University of St. Louis provided the translation.

Simin Behbahani (photo By Syma Sayyah, Tehran)

Iran Hangs Five, Including A Teacher

Not one, not two ...they were five

By Simin Behbahani (translated by Fatemeh Keshavarz)

Not one, not two ...they were five and yet I don't know why

In my mind, they were more like fifty.

And, how is it possible that gallows [on which they were hanged]

Were, someday, trees that did not surrender to axes?


Tell me how to write about the treehood days of the gallows:

Standing firm for freedom, they dug their heels in the meadow.

When the breeze found them in the orchard and wrapped itself around their branches

Their message reached everyone in soft playful dances.


Now, heads have grown on them, heads hanging from broken necks,

Heads of full-bodied figures, perhaps champions in their own way.   

Left waiting, feet-dangling-in-the-air, utterly robbed of their words,

These heads whose stories could have filled many books!

Only clouds could now rain tears on their broken bodies,

For mothers were not united with them even after their death.


Don't waste a complaint on the faithless judge, who

Was the enemy, not of darkness and tyranny, but of the Giver of life.


Simin Behbahani is among the most outstanding contemporary Persian poets. Known affectionately as the Lioness of Iran for her outspoken defense of human rights, she has been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature, and has "received many literary accolades around the world."  Behbahani is the author of more than ten volumes of poetry and currently serves as the President of the Iranian Writers' Association. In early March 2010, she was prevented from leaving the country for a visit to Paris. Her passport has since been confiscated. Click here for more information on Behbahani.

Fatemeh Keshavarz is Professor and Chair of the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages & Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran. Click here for more information on Keshavarz. 

Related News: Poet Behbahani Writes for Peace Amid Iran's Political Turmoil, PBS News Hour May 17, 2010

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