Blood-washing (A soldier's heart syndrome)

17 April 2021

Blood-washing (A soldier's heart syndrome)

Seated Nude, Georgia O'Keeffe; Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Presenting his translation of an excerpt of the poem “Blood-Washing” by Maryam Farnam, Kamran Baradaran asks: Is it possible to write poetry after a disaster? Can catastrophes such as Auschwitz, World Wars, and humanitarian crises serve as a permutation for an artistic practice?

Is it possible to write poetry after a disaster? Can catastrophes such as Auschwitz, World Wars, and humanitarian crises serve as a permutation for an artistic practice? Contrary to what Adorno said, it is precisely in the midst of a full-blown crisis that the work of art is needed more than ever, a work that, as Paul Valéry once said, "were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours." The wound of catastrophe, the blood that drips from it, is the ink of the artist, he/she who tries to blend narrative and reality, sorrow and anger and the future and the past, like a collage of fragments of time.


What follows, which is a translation of the opening and closing parts of a long poem by Maryam Farnam, is also formed on such an axis. An explanation on the title of this poem: In the early months of the Iran-Iraq War, in Ahwaz, soldiers' bloody clothes were carried to the rear of the front, washed and defiled by a group of women volunteers, known as "blood-washing."


From “Blood Washing”

by Maryam Farnam


It was a piece of my hand that got buried: alone

They didn't find me

- Will they not?

Buried it a woman,

A piece of my hand

In a faithful sleeve

But dead is

a hand that does not go into the pocket in the cold

Dead is

a hand that does not fist

and shake,

Dead is.


- Do the cut-off hands recall their owners?

What white fingers!

Scrabbling me in the clothes.


O tall whites!

Tell me where my blood will go

and do we die sooner or our hands?


"Raise your palm!"

It burns

High the blood flows

"Higher!"

Confused is the height

My head that was my head once is not now

Faceless I am

Headless

Empty-eyed

And mouthless


They didn't find me

- Will they not?


Blood was all

Sclera blood

Blackness of hair blood

Long red fountains

On the white plain of bones blood

Firehead palms

Eyeless heads

Headless feet

Toothless Mouths

And rhythmic instrument of flies

And snarl of death in red mouth of throat blood

Slashed chests,

Will they be sewn together?

Will the severed fingers return to useless hands?

Will the legs run after the hanging thighs?

Will the empty bowl of eyes be filled?

Will the red tongue move in the throat?

Will the villi of the tongue be filled with sweet flavors?

Will the sound return to the larynx?

Will the vocal cords tremble in eternal vibration?

Will anyone make us out of soil and mud again?

And will my dead mouth eventually blossom?

Will anyone dip their finger in the wound again?

- No one.

Blessèd art thou, No One.

In thy sight would

we bloom.


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