Iranian Edition (Vol II) | Poetry by Saeed Yousef | Issue 40 (2021)

Four Poems
By Saeed Yousef


A Song of Gratitude

I can change my hats, I can change my boots
I can change my jobs and my ways and attitudes
there’s one thing I can’t change and that’s my roots.

I can change houses as easily as tents
I can change towns and countries and continents
and always find substitutes for everything.
It’s just for roots I can’t find no substitutes.

And now I find myself in this very rare mood
that I want to sing a song of gratitude
for my roots, for I see it’s just for them—
it’s just for them I can’t find no substitutes.


In the Kitchen

Bent over the frying pan
you are stirring with the long wooden spoon.
I am admiring the lines of your body
and this sizzling sound comes from my heart.

Grazing in the waving grass, my gaze
slips down the waist
taking accurate measures of each spot.

Everybody waiting, enjoying the scent
of spices and what’s being cooked,
and I have such great appetite for the cook.


Foreignness

– How are you here, far from home?
– How should I put it?
Like a train that has left its tracks, heading for the wilderness.

– What are you doing here, in foreign lands?
– How should I put it?
Each day I take my guitar and softly play a few false, foreign notes.

– How do you perceive a foreign land?
– How should I put it?
It’s something foreign to me, outside of me.

– How do you find yourself?
– A foreigner, doubtlessly a foreigner.


Twin

A forbidden kiss, wet with tears and rain,
after running under a spring cloudburst.
That’s how you are, my twin! Soul mate
of many years!
Souvenir from the years of impatience,
Growing with me along the line of times.

Lingering in my heart as some keepsake,
a star from the galaxy of friendship.
That’s how you are, my twin! Soul mate
of many years!
A forbidden kiss, wet with tears and rain,
after running under a spring cloudburst.


Saeed Yousef is a former professor of Persian language and literature at the University of Chicago (2002-2020). He began writing and publishing poems in mid-1960s. A political prisoner under the Shah (1971-74), he had to leave Iran after the revolution and went to Germany as a refugee. Yousef has published about 10 books of poems, several translations and books of literary criticism, as well as three books of Persian Grammar. 

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