Once Upon a Time
in memory of Leila Seerahat Roshani
Granny used to say
always keep your magic sack
tucked inside your ribcage.
Don't say the sun's worn out,
don't say it's gone astray.
Say, I'm coming back.
May the White Demon
protect and watch over you.
Oh, daughter of the dawn,
perhaps this sorry tale,
stuck in the mud,
was of your own doing.
Take the comb from the sack,
throw it in the Black Demon's path:
seven jungles will grow at his feet.
Don't say heaven's too far,
earth's too hard. Don't throw the mirror
if you fear the sea and her nymphs.
Don't say there was, don't say there wasn't,
trust in the god of fairytales.
May Granny's soul rest in peace.
Give the mirror to Golnar's mother
who, down by the charred vineyards,
dreams of birds and fish.
Don't say the rooftop sun's too brief.
Say, I'm coming and this time,
forget love's foolish griefs.
Shake out the sack.
In the name of the White Demon,
burn that strand of hair.
once upon a time ...?
Once upon a time there was
a girl in whose long, endless dreams,
an old woman with white braids,
forever telling beads, would pray:
‘May the Shomali Plain still fill with song
and through the ceilings
of its ruined homes, let light pour in.'
The literal translation of this poem was made by Zuzanna Olszewska
The final translated version of the poem is by Mimi Khalvati
Once Upon a Time: this poem refers to a fairytale in which the hero sets off to fight the Black Demon, aided by the White Demon and the magic powers of a sack with a mirror, a comb and a strand of hair. Fairytales traditionally start with the refrain, ‘There was one, there wasn't one, apart from God, there was no one'.
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2015