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Sequences to freedom by Ali Abdolrezaei
Author's Note: “Sequences to freedom” is the name of an online book of short poems I started to write in February 2011, consisting of some 90 poems. Abol Froushan has been translating a representative sample of them and as I keep writing more of this series, Abol is translating more, which I will add to this list as they appear. I never thought that one day I would write purely political poetry, but the inhuman atrocity dealt by the regime nowadays is so beyond proportion that it is politics that is writing these poems.

Ali Abdolrezaei

You are shot there
so your red cells flower ... in Freedom Avenue
you die
so snow
with its white cells
soft and softly
shroud you
hide you
so an ill wind won’t blow
to steel you who were not one of them*

You are not one of them
your arteries are arteries of a city
that which beats in Revolution Square
is still your heart
which sends off
one by one
all taxis down any street that leads
like a dark vein
toward my heart
that is in Freedom Square

We both fight in the same street
you are shot there
I die here

* In the recent resurgence of the Green movement in Iran, in solidarity with the February 2011 Egyptian revolution, a university student was killed by a bullet from the security forces. The next day the security forces counter claimed that the victim was in fact a supporter of the regime killed by the demonstrators.


Three well dressed teenagers
on the corner of the alley that defines the street
are chatting together
about a girl that is perhaps
coming from afar
seven other youths
are standing by the side of the road opposite
they are whispering about the same girl
who is now a little nearer
the three and the seven got together
no fighting
and before the girl arrives
they start walking in the direction she was heading
seventy people are passing the pavement
and from the next street
now a thousand
eleven thousand are waiting in the big square
the security forces are nervous
they have closed the road
to stop the girl arrive*

* Boys and girls are not free to appear together in public, in Iran. This has turned into a political issue for the young generation who are a force behind the demonstrations. Because demonstrations are forbidden they arrange to gather together at a specified square in town.


I throw a stone
in the Thames
a bird drinking at it
flies off
to take refuge over there
on a Parliament tower
but you were shot in the street
around the Parliament in Tehran
you were running away from


They are proud of the truncheons
and the rifles
they don’t know
they beat people
they don’t know
they shoot people
what do they know
one of these days
the lump they have planted in our throat
will explode like a bomb


Two Basijies* arrest him
with his hands tied to his back
they take him
he turns his head
tells his girl friend
the good thing is
now I love you even more

* The Basij are an army of paid militia who typically aspire to enter the Revolutionary Guard of the Islamic Republic.


To be able to hold hands in the street
they came out last year
to ask for their vote back
where his girlfriend was shot
Now that he is marching with another girl friend
as he is shouting slogans
he is thinking
of the next march
and which one


Father went to work per usual
your sister off to university
and your mother as many years ago
gone to Zahra in Heaven*
it was only you
who cancelled school
stayed home
waiting for three o’clock
to join the demonstrations

it is late boy
everyone has returned home
except for you
gone to Zahra’s Heaven*

* Zahra is a sacred Shiite figure of the daughter of the Prophet Mohamed  and Zahra’s Heaven in a literary translation of the name of the main cemetery in Tehran.


A Pasdar* shoots at him
he falls
but takes out his mobile
takes a picture of his killer
then dies

* Pasdaran are the corps of Revolutionary Guards loyal to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. People try to gather evidence of the atrocities to inform the world in the hope to bring them to justice.


He had been knifed
it was obvious from his attacker’s face
he had got good money for this
he wrestled the knife from the assailant
and though he should have killed him
he forgave
put a hand on his wound
held his eyes
and the Basiji fled


Just a few seconds ago
when people were shouting slogans
they were talking to each other
exchanging sentences
with verbs in the present tense
he is talking about his friend
who a few seconds ago was shot
his verbs
are all past tense


The militia were lurking around
so the plain clothes
and the guards
and people
were shouting slogans
though none knew
they must all be connected somehow
what Revolution Square knew well
having seen them all
marching to freedom
together in 1979.


It was no earthquake
no house in ruin
last night
Tehran was beating to a dance
because its prayers
been granted

About the author:
Ali Abdolrezaei was born in Northern Iran. He completed his primary and secondary education in his city of birth and after receiving his diploma in mathematics passed the nationwide university entrance exams. He graduated with a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from Tehran Technical and Engineering University. He began his professional poetic career in 1986 and became one of the most serious and contentious poets of the new generation of Persian poetry. Abdolrezaei has had an undeniable effect on many Persian poets through of his poetry as well as his speeches and interviews. He is also one of the few poets who succeeded in expressing his unique poetic individuality. His 21 varied books of poetry –In Riskdom Where I lived, Shinema, So Sermon of Society, Improvisation, This Dear Cat, Paris in Renault, More Obscene than Literature, Hermaphrodite, A Gift in A Condom, You Name this Book, Only Iron Men Rust in the Rain, Terror, La Elaha Ella Love and Fackbook – endorse his poetic creativity and power. Nearly all well-known poets and critics of Persian poetry have written about Abdolrezaei’s work. In September 2002 after his protest against heavy censorship of his latest books such as So Sermon of Society and Shinema, he was banned from teaching and public speaking. He left Iran and after staying a few months in Germany, followed by two years in France, he moved to London, where he has been living for the last 5 years.

Ali Abdolrezaei’s poetry shows that the contemporary art of Iran has been hugely influenced by the traumatic historic events of the last three decades and that these events have affected millions of Iranians in one way or another. Abdolrezaei is young and represents the aesthetics and voice of a new, multi-faceted generation of Iranians and their cultural chasm with the past in the face of a repressive political regime. Abdolrezaei gained reputation as a poet, speaking in the voice of his time, in the early 1990s and received wide critical attention. His poetry tackles difficult themes with a mastery of craft. Ali Abdolrezaei’s poems are translated into many languages such as English , French ,German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Turkish, Portuguese, Urdu , Croatian and Arabic.


Pain was nearby
the guy
lost in people’s black shadows
his story was supposed to end on a bright note
the sight of blood
at the foot of the lamp post


A youth got shot
a thousand windows opened wide
his spectacles fell
broke in two
everyone got scared
an only book in his hand
twirled in the air
opened out and as it landed
a window shut
now were only two left open
which when the man
reeled in pain and fell to a sprawl
were shut


Death was in the street
no one was afraid of it
it had truncheons
it had guns
but it didn’t have the balls
to listen to a word of sense


I won’t die alongside you
though I will avenge you
some day come what may
between the loves I have
and play neutral with
you nevertheless are facing a thousand mercenaries
apart from the Iranian kind
they bring them from the Lebanon*
so they have fun with you in Evin Prison
because of this
for a few years now
I holiday in Beirut to get some fun

* It is well known that the Hesbollah from Lebanon have helped suppress the demonstrations in the aftermath of Iran’s presidential election of 2009.


No one died
so another would take his freedom
no one has the right
because one has
to die for our sins
They have painted us black
you, green*
we, absent
you, present
so you don’t take it back
and die
you go
so we come
we are absent
you, present
so we don’t come
and you die
please don’t take it to heart
it is because of this
that for which I write

* This refers to the Green movement in Iran.


The flood that is going to come
I am sure
won’t come short
even if the sea is sitting calm ...if blue
what does this new born wave see
that it wants to come back to?
Before it forsakes the shore
what does it write on the sand
does anyone read?


There is no need to pay a killer
suicide is cheap in Tehran
it’s enough
to pay freedom* a visit
to die

* Freedom square is the largest square and the site of major demonstrations in Tehran


What is left of us
like a sleeve
which has lost its hand
or a trouser leg
that is always left empty
we are maimed in
hand to hand battle
the war of me against myself


Every day I did the class headcount
there was always one missing
but you of the last row
never found you missing
except for one day
only one day
when you had gone tall as a cypress
to green* the square behind the school
I am still doing the headcount
everyone is present
but there is always one missing
in the class

* This is an allusion to the demonstrations of the Green movement which fills the streets with green flags and insignia.


There is a river on the street
One million
Two million
Three million voices are running
And the mosque head-quartered behind the square
In all its Fridays
Hasn't seen such mass

Fear overtakes it
And a gun-barrel pushes out its window
Wondering whether to hit at the scarf
Beside a boy in short sleeves
Who can single-minded after the bullet
Give her the kiss of life
Or the man who had to come out of himself
In old age
With his daughters
No one's seen more people than this who'd become Moses Streetwise
More than this Nile
To pour out so many young lives

Freedom Square is the joy of life
And the trigger .... that is all together amiss
the barrel's revolving round for prey   
among the people
can't find one
so fires into the air
that instead of god hits
a piece of black
on the homely crow
up there  having a rest on the wires
a piece of red drops
on the greens who had come out of their cave
and the wind takes its black wing
to give to the minaret of the mosque which is a pointless invention
the gun made in one of our own factories
singlemindedly  shocked
and like me jolted
in the middle of a well crafted poem
whose ending is not in my reach


Had this rain stopped
and the blood in the street not been washed off
the bus they painted green would have brightened our eyes
and no one would have been so simple as to become a vagabond like me

Like me who dismounted from Iran
everyone's over here making announcements over there
by the BBC
and waiting
for the radio  switched on in the bus to mount us

Like matchsticks
thrown higgledy piggledy in the box
some standing and some grown used to their seats
waiting on a Noah's steer that won't reach land
All carry a bomb on their head
but waiting for the next match to catch fire
like matches from Tabriz
or Isfahan (that is not half the world)
to call a halt to a driver who is not behind the wheel

London's rain gives no respite
The bus is a box of matches sliding on a slippery street.


I had two books
I did not like
so I deleted the file
and emptied the bin to get rid of it
but I liked this one
not that I love it
Just that I like it to be published
to make you suffer

*All poems are translated from Persian into English by Abol Froushan
Ali Abdolrezaei