Friday, 10 January 2014

An Iranian professor I know asked me - Mimi Khalvati

An Iranian professor I know asked me
   the first time we met, as he’d asked so many
students: Saheb-del – how would you say in English
   Saheb-del, can you translate it? And each time
he pronounced the words his fingers tolled the air
   like a bell, a benediction. Years have passed.

Saheb means master, owner, companion; del
   means heart. Heart’s companion, keeper?
Heart’s host? And in those years I’ve asked
   friends who in turn have asked friends
who know Urdu, Farsi, and no one has come up with
   the English for Sahab-del. Is it a name

for the very thing that won’t translate? And why
   don’t I remember having heard it said?
They say it of people who are hospitable, ‘godly’,
   I’d say it of the professor himself. Trust him
to keep asking, us to keep failing, and if we can’t recall
   its tone, tenor, with what word shall we keep faith?

Mimi Khalvati (born 1944) Iran

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