How I Find Home in the Persian Poetry of Hafez
Home means that you’re anchored in something deeper than second-hand nostalgia, that you miss your country because it is a part of you.
Lost JosephYusef-e gomgashte.
Joseph, the lost, will return to Canaan, grieve not
This house of sorrow will become a rose garden again, grieve not
Oh grieving heart, you will mend, do not despair
This scattered mind of yours will return to calm, grieve not
When the spring of life sets again in the meadows
A crown of flowers you will bear, singing bird, grieve not
کلبه احزان شود روزی گلستان غم مخور
وین سر شوریده باز آید به سامان غم مخور
چتر گل در سر کشی ای مرغ خوشخوان غم مخور
I felt transported back to the garden in Shiraz that hot afternoon, trailing behind as my cousins led the way to the car. I watched them huddled together, reciting their favorite verses in the same rhythm I recognized from my father’s Hafez readings. I tried to make sense of the sacred experience we all shared, of the emotion that brewed inside of me for reasons I could not name. But their words floated over to me, empty and unintelligible, hushed and cryptic like secrets.
Will baba let me go to the NSync concert? Will I win class president? Will I get the CNN internship? Will my boyfriend propose?
The splendour of youth has again returned to the garden of spring
Home may be perilous and the destination out of reach
But there are no paths without an end, grieve not
In a state of absent loved ones and troubling foes
God knows every sentence of your life, grieve not
All this time
The sun never says to the Earth,
“You owe me.”
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.
Yusef-e gomgashte baaz ayad be Canaan, gham makhor
If the turning world does not move with our wishes today
This feeling in time is not permanent, grieve not
Elham is a writer and editor living in Washington, DC. She earned her Masters in Global Communication at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs and her B.A. in nonfiction writing and political science at the University of Pittsburgh. Find her on Twitter @ekhatami.