Something the Colour of Pines on Fire, Vahid Davar
Matecznik Press, 2022 £5.00
The first incarnation of the first poem in ‘Something the Colour of Pines’, travelled from Vahid Davar’s mind to the page in Persian, Vahid Davar’s first language. The poem’s given name is ‘Ahd-e Nassim’.
Time passes. Then ‘Ahd-e Nassim’ is translated by Vahid Davar into English, Vahid Davar’s second language. Its new given name is ‘Nassim’s Testament’. In English, the poem says:
1.The Bright salt
[…] The people smuggler was picking pairs from every herd
to place in the shipping container two by two.
There were two who were mateless: Nassim and I.
In fleeing we were born
knowing that only brains
flee abroad on aeroplanes.
But we were ghosts
who fled at midnight in a shipping container.
My father sold our house and I
was the first bordernaut of my tribe to discover the north of the earth.
But is the poem reborn? Or is it a sibling of the original poem, sharing DNA and at the same time being its own distinctive self?
I don’t speak Persian so I can only be intrigued by how discovering the ‘north of the earth’ and looking back on this discovery might shape the way Vahid Davar translates his own poem, his own remembered and at the same-time lived experience; his own perilous journey, literal and linguistic; his relationship with himself and others. Maybe the poems aren’t siblings but ghosts of each other.
Vahid Davar made a deliberate choice to learn English, so I am also intrigued by how much the language of the English-incarnation is saturated with the all the things learned since the choice was made to flee and the original poem was written. In English, the poem says
I, who am both Nassim and Vahid,
was a mateless stag
Vahid Davar is now both Nassim and Vahid; author and translator of himself, master of ceremonies, censor, keeper of truth and secrets, voice for a friend no longer alive. I was going to add ‘omnipotent presence’, but in English the poem says:
Of life’s many vanities
one was poetry
and Nassim was relieved of vanity.
But why did I not say, ‘He fell young’?
There are some tragedies we can’t fix. To die is to be relieved of vanity, certainly. And poetry too.
But why did Vahid not say Nassim fell young? Perhaps neither of them, and none of Vahid’s selves, can know the answer.