In the tomb of the poets.Posted: October 10, 2014
Photo: Mausoleum of Poets in Tabriz, Iran.
Mohamad gets a text from Hafez every day. Or rather, he’s subscribed to a service that sends him a verse every day by SMS. He got his daily bread once when we were high up in the stone-carved village of Kandovan, on a ledge overlooking the valley and the walnut terraces and the fog on the mountains beyond, and he read it to me. He’s a wonderful reader.
Our third day in Tabriz, we went to the Mausoleum of Poets. Four hundred great Persian scholars are buried or otherwise commemorated there (many of the tombs were lost in earthquakes). It’s a palatial marble room shaped like a star, each spoke a separate wing, with portraits of poets and samples of their verses, and a voice reciting overhead.
I asked Mohamad to leave me alone a little so I could pray. I do this a lot when I travel—if I’m in a holy place, either in the spiritual or creative sense, a cave or church or shrine or temple or ruins thereof, I spend some time talking to the presences that are there, and asking them for their help in my work.
So I found a corner and knelt and closed my eyes and the first thing that came out was, as I knew it would be, fury.
“Why? Shahriyar, Khaqani, Anvari, Asadi Tusi—why is every single face in this mausoleum of a man? Do you know how that makes me feel? Not inspired. Invisible. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Why are your voices the only ones that are heard? How many women did you silence during your time on earth? Or what women did you allowed to be silenced? How can it have remained this way for two thousand years? Why are we always the object and never the poet? I’m fucking tired of being the beloved. I want to be the lover. You owe me your help.”
And the part of me that is them answered, “Yes, we understand, we do, and we will be with you.”
Only then could we proceed.
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