Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Anna Francis: Oral Culture and Poetry. Response 6

Anna Francis

Professor Mahallati

FYSP 181

2 December 2019

Anna Francis: Oral Culture and Poetry. Response 6

“My Country, I Shall Build You Again” is a collection of poems written by contemporary poet Simin Behbahani. Behbahani’s poems touch upon the theme of strength, violence, greed, and bonds, and anti-war. “You Will Not Believe It” is a poem that describes a person whose fists hold stars. Behbahani writes, “You will not believe it, but I have stars in my fists. A pattern of light shines through when my fingers tighten, a design of light glows from every phosphoric crevice, green quicksilver shines in my glass-like bones” (Behbahani 221). These lines paint the image of a person clenching their fists, which leads me to believe that the stars in the poem are a metaphor for willpower. In today’s society, flexed muscles are associated with endurance and strength. It is common to see characters in tv shows, plays, or movies expressing their anger and exasperation by clenching their fists and waving them in the air or at another person. When you clench your fist at a subject, you are confronting it and showing that you are not afraid to stand your ground. “A pattern of light shines through when my fingers tighten” represents the willpower that shines through. 

As the poem continues, Behbahani shifts from the theme of character strength to violence. In the poem, the person lives their life with a watchful eye and open ears because they fear that someone may steal their stars. There is a fantastical monster from children’s storybooks who comes from a place of greed and extortion. He lurks in the dark and waits for the right moment to steal the stars. The person throws a stone at the monster’s head and wounds him, however, in the process loses his stars. “The monster has fallen from his height onto squalid dirt and rock, but you will not believe it, I am left with no more stars” (Ibid). In this case, it can be inferred that stars are a metaphor for innocence. This line communicates innocence being lost to violence. An innocent person who resorts to violence will lose their innocence because will have experienced the world in a harmful, unethical manner. `On the other hand, this line may elucidate the idea that greed can corrupt you. As previously mentioned, the monster comes from a place of greed and extortion. Here, the stars represent the state of goodness. The moment the person interacts with the monster causes them to lose their stars, or in other words, their goodness. 

In the poem, “I Write and I Cross Out,” Behbahani illustrates his connection with somebody he does not remember. “I wanted to remember you,” he writes, “but you became a cloud on the far side of the sea, how can I picture you in this scattered mist?” (213). The narrator asks, “is this the tired wind breaking or is it your voice in the alleys? Who is this and what says he, tell me so that I can respond?” (Ibid). It is clear that the person is unattainable and has been absent from Behbahani’s life, however, he makes the important distinction that their voice still remains in his mind. This leads me to believe that the person was important in his life and resonated deeply with him. “Memories of you escape my mind, but what can I do? There are no clothes in the closet for me to fold and stack” (Ibid). This line means that there is nothing more that he can do to recapture his lost memories. 

In “Lead Dust,” Behbahani asks, “Why should the earth be a reed bed of arrows and the sky so bloodied?” (107). This line metaphorically alludes to the pollution created by humans that “bloodies” the sky. In “Why should my eyelids always close the doors of joy to my eyes?” (Ibid), closed eyes may indicate that a person is praying for the end of war. Closed eyes may also indicate that the person is sleeping. It is possible to experience joy in dreams, however, it is evident that Behbahani doesn’t experience joy when he closes his eyes. This leads me to believe that he is having a nightmare. 

Fereydoon Moshiri is also a contemporary poet also deals with the notion of war and violence. In his poem, “Unfinished,” he writes “The sound of a bullet robbed my lips of words. The star trembled, the breeze lost its breath, the moon paled. Where else should I take my unfinished word?” (Moshiri 197). In these lines, the sound of a gunshot disrupts peace. It leaves him speechless, causes the stars in the galaxy to tremble, silences the wind, and causes the moon to move away from the earth. It is almost as if the moon is afraid to get near to the earth and witness the violence and destruction that is happening. In the six, short lines of his poem, Moshiri addresses the extent to which violence impacts nature, peace, and the world. 

The music video illustrating Behbahani’s political protest poem, “I Will Rebuild You Again,” delivers anti-war sentiments that are aided by video clips and photographs of mobs, fires, raids, and complete mayhem. The music moves along with the movement in the videos as it picks up pace during mob scenes and slows down when the camera pans over destruction zones. The singer makes direct, sincere eye contact with the audience as he curls his hands into fists in passion and exasperation. This creates an emotional appeal to the audience and conveys the distressing and traumatic impact of war and violence. 

I found that writing the lines, “ba sad hezar jelveh borun amadi ke ma ba sad hezar dideh tamasha konam to ra” came more naturally to me than previous lines we have written in calligraphy. As I am improving my skill in curving my letters, I found that these lines gave me many opportunities to keep practicing. Rather than writing slowly, I wrote faster this time than previous calligraphy practices, which allowed my letters to appear more naturally on the paper. 

Works Cited

Behbahani, Simin. My Country, I Shall Build You Again. Edited by Michael Beard. Translated by Sara Khalili, Sokhan Publishers.

Moshiri, Fereydoon. “Lucky those Half-Opened Buds”. Translated by Sara Khalili, Sokhan Publishers.

I have adhered to the Honor Code on this assignment. Anna Francis

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