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Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

This is a poem for my grandmother, in rubaiyat stanzas as Englished by Edward Fitzgerald. My grandmother lived and died in Tehran, and here I'm thinking of her in London while driving.

Rubaiyat

Rubaiyat
for Telajune

Beyond the view of crossroads ringed with breath
her bed appears, the old-rose covers death
has smoothed and stilled; her fingers lie inert,
her nail-file lies beside her in its sheath.

The morning's work over, her final chore
was 'breaking up the sugar' just before
siesta, sitting crosslegged on the carpet,
her slippers lying neatly by the door.

The image of her room behind the pane,
though lost as the winding road shifts its plane,
returns on every straight, like signatures
we trace on glass, forget and find again.

I have inherited her tools: her anvil,
her axe, her old scrolled mat, but not her skill,
and who would choose to chip at sugar-blocks
when sugar-cubes are boxed beside the till?

The scent of lilacs from the road reminds me
of my own garden: a neighbouring tree
grows near the fence. At night its clusters loom
like lantern-moons, pearly-white, unearthly.

I don't mind that the lilac's roots aren't mine.
Its boughs are, and its blooms. It curves its spine
towards my soil and litters it with dying
stars: deadheads I gather up like jasmine.

My grandmother would rise and take my arm,
then sifting through the petals in her palm
would place in mine the whitest of them all:
'Salaam, dokhtare-mahe-man, salaam!'

'Salaam, my daughter-lovely-as-the-moon!'
Would that the world could see me, Telajune,
through your eyes! Or that I could see a world
that takes such care to tend what fades so soon.


from In White Ink (Carcanet 1991), copyright © Mimi Khalvati 1991, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Recordings

Mimi Khalvati Reading from her Poems

1Shanklin Chine

2Rubaiyat

3Vine-Leaves

4Earls Court

5Coma

6Entries on Light (1-6)

7The Chine

8Nostalgia

9Writing Letters

10Eden

11Writing Home

12Villanelle

13The Piano

14Babies

15Life in Art

16Snails

17The Love Barn

18Just to Say

19Song

20Don't Ask Me, Love, For That First Love

21Come Close

22Blinks

23Overblown Roses

24On Lines from Fahmida Riaz and Foroogh Farrokhzad

25Signal

26Ghazal

27Ghazal: Hold Me

28Ghazal: The Servant

29Ghazal: My Son

30Ghazal: The Children

31Blessing

Books by Mimi Khalvati