Poetry Parnassus is a project of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, hosted at the Southbank Centre in London. It ran from June 26 to July 1, featuring 145 poets from around the world. Here is the Guardian’s interactive map, where you can click on a country and read its poem. I will be posting them on a semi-regular basis until they’re done.
Don’t Ask Me, Love, for that First Love, by Mimi Khalvati (Iran)
How wrong I was. What had summer
to do with sorrow in full spate?
Every rosebush, every flower
I passed, stood at a stranger’s gate
Weaving through our towns, centuries
of raw silk, brocade and velvet
have swilled the streets in blood. Bodies,
ripe with sores in lanes and markets,
are paying with their lives. But I
had little time for the world’s wars,
love was war enough. In your sky,
your eyes, were all my falling stars.
Don’t ask me, though I wish you would
and I know you won’t, for more tears.
Why build a dam at Sefid Rud
if not to water land for years?
Though we’ll never see the olives,
ricefields, shelter in an alcove
from the sun, in our time, our lives
have more to answer to than love
• ‘Don’t Ask Me, Love, for that First Love’ from Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011
(Carcanet Press, 2011), by permission of the publisher.
A love poem that says love is not enough, and a necessary reminder that behind the monolithic facades we project onto other countries, their people are much like us.