Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Where Is the House of My Friend? (After Sohrab Sepehri)



In the false-dawn twilight
a rider enquired of a passer-by:
Where is the house of my friend?
The sky paused
The passer-by held a branch of light
which brushed the dark sand

He pointed to an aspen:
before you reach that tree
turn off at the garden path
that leads into a space more green
than any god could dream
and go down that path
as far as the wings of honesty can reach

Continue beyond the end
of the first part of your life
and then turn again
take two steps
toward a flower that grows alone
at the foot of the fountain
of the story of the earth
stop and you will be swallowed up
by fear transparent as water

In the closeness of the space that flows
something rustles
in one of the surrounding pines
a child has climbed up
to pluck a young bird
from a nest made of light
and you call out to that child

Where is the house of my friend?



Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980): Where Is the House of My Friend? trans. TC
Still from Where Is the House of My Friend?, dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 1987
Sohrab Sepehri: Untitled drawings (via 12 Petals Media Group)




Thanks for this, poem and pictures a long way from what one is hearing these days about that place (Iran).


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, crow calling from branch in left
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

co-ordinate systems relative
to the object, physical

distance from each other, so
that potential, measure

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
cormorants flapping across toward point

TC said...


Thanks, yes, that was the point of the post, that maybe there is more to life and art in Iran -- and for that matter more to life everywhere, and more to everything -- than one hears in the mainstream media.

co-ordinate systems relative
to the object, physical

distance from each other,

... but not necessarily absolute or finite, if we are willing to try to reduce the distance a bit, and to keep an open mind/heart.

TC said...

Kiarostami's magnificent film, in keeping with his earlier work (much of it commissioned as educational cinema for children), concerns a moral dilemma faced by a young person: a boy decides, obeying the commands of loyalty and friendship against his mother's wishes, to return a lost school workbook to a negligent classmate who lives in an unfamiliar village.

The whole film is posted in seven parts. Here is the third part. The others appear as side links under the title Khaneye Doost Kojast? The videos appear in Farsi without subtitles, but as in Kiarostami in general, the information supplied by camera and offscreen sound do much of the work. And they speak very eloquently at that.

Where Is the House of my Friend?

Curtis Roberts said...

Can't wait to have the time to watch this film. (I won't postpone the viewing until I have the equanimity, which might be a good way to measure "never" the way things feel lately.) Again, as with certain other poets whose work has been posted here, I was unaware of Sohrab Sepheri. Reading the poem was immediately to be drawn into a place and condition that was uncharted. Reading the lines in Stephen's poem affected me also. Actually, the Sepheri poem reminded me of the beginning of The Inferno. As for The Dividends of Ignorance, mine haven't been paying out at all satisfactorily of late, either in train seats or any other useful currency.

TC said...


The quest tale or question trail that is Sepehri's poem was a direct inspiration for Kiarostami.

The film descends at one stage into a maze of obscure confusing passages; a Dantesque endarkenment of the journey.

But there is a wonderfully sweet, uplifting, unexpected ending.


Tom and Curtis,

I've just watched the link to the film you've included her -- beautiful, very moving, indeed 'proof' there's "more to life and art in Iran . . . than one hears in the mainstream media". . . . thanks.

Julia said...

Have you seen this post about the same poem? You may like it.

TC said...


Many thanks for the link to that wonderful post on the Sepehri poem, which teaches us more. Beautiful.

Studiolum said...

A beautiful version of Sepehri’s poem. Thank you for it.

„maybe there is more to life and art in Iran -- and for that matter more to life everywhere, and more to everything -- than one hears in the mainstream media”

Much, much more. Just from what few I have a glimpse into, let me recommend you this. Or maybe also this.

human being said...

thanks for this post and your precious words... mirroring Sepehri and Iran... a land that is condemned to be ruined with all its beauties... gifts and arts...

business is the master of the world and needs this land to be seen what it has never been...

just yesterday i was reading about a poll showing that people from different countries mostly agree with a military attack on Iran...
and this just broke my heart... and now that i'm writing these words suddenly tears started to pour out... not that soon there will be a war upon us... and i'm frightened... no no no ... i'm just crying for how truth can be masked... how beauty can be shown as evil... how people of a country that all through history just produced magnificent works of science... architecture... art... and literature... should be looked upon as the most dangerous beings on earth... how media can rule over minds to prevent them from being aware of the truth in this country... not to see how we are caged... how we are struggling... how we are tortured... how we are killed one by one... just because we say... love... just because we say... peace...

this religion is not of us... these rulers are not of us...

sanctions and war are just for annihilating the people not the rulers... these things just makes these puppets more powerful...

ah... this is all a show!
business... rules! guns should be sold... and oil should rule again...


how can i tell the world that i cannot see my people to be humiliated... to be curshed anymore.... for what they have not done!

why people do not choose the untrodden path of truth... JUST FOR ONCE...

killing IRAN
is killing the world...

the friend's house is situated in our hearts...

this is where i always meet you...

and all the people of the world...

TC said...

"sanctions and war are just for annihilating the people not the rulers"

That's so true, hb. The ones who rig the game and pull the strings are seldom the ones to suffer the consequences.

You know the history and beauty of your culture are always deeply honoured here.

If you have a moment, take a look at the links provided by Julia and Studiolum in the comments above yours.

Perhaps there will come a fleeting sense of home.


NN said...

one of the most beautiful and lucid translations of the poem i have come across.

TC said...

Many thanks, NN.

I have enjoyed your blogs also.

Antara said...

Hi Tom,
I am currently undergoing a research on 'Poetical elements in the Sound of Iranian Cinema'. I was wondering if I could quote you and your translation of Sepehri's poem in my thesis.

Thanking you,


TC said...


Yes, thanks for asking, and I do hope you survive the research. The Melting Pot is delicious, and I do take an interest in All Things Brum.