Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD


Thirty years ago when the Islamic Revolution erupted in Iran, I had been back in the States four years following a two-year sojourn in Iran. At the time of the capture of American hostages, I remembered Yeats’ words: “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” After pondering the situation awhile, I conceived the idea for my book, IRAN: IN A PERSIAN MARKET. The book was a collection of vignettes gleaned from columns by that name which I wrote and sent back to be published in The Daily Iberian in New Iberia, Louisiana. They were chronicles of an American expatriate family’s experiences in this mideastern country.

In the introduction to IRAN: IN A PERSIAN MARKET, I wrote about watching television one day in 1979 and suddenly seeing angry fists waving in the air on the streets of Tehran, and when I turned on my television set yesterday, I thought I was experiencing a déjà vu. Riots had erupted in Tehran because Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election for the office of the Supreme Leader of Iran. Protesters who had voted for the rival for this office, Hussein Moussavi, were rioting in the streets, screaming about election fraud, and officers in the Revolutionary Guard were beating people, attempting to quell the riots. The landscape was torched, a man was killed by the police, and many protesters were injured before the Ayatollah Khaemini, who is the last word on this election, decided to have a recount to calm the protesters. Today, we await word that perhaps there was a mistake in the vote counting, but I doubt that any changes will be made as the Ayatollah Khaemini supports Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As I’ve already said, the scenes that flash across the screen of the television every day this week are eerily reminiscent of the revolution and riots in Tehran 30 years ago.

Coincidentally, this week I should get the proofs for a book of poetry I wrote last year about Iran entitled FARDA, one of two collections in a single volume entitled THE HOLY PRESENT and FARDA. A poem from FARDA that hints at the change in the character of Iran after the Iranian Revolution:

PERSEPOLIS

Persepolis, ruin of the ancient East,
the stones of your palace

gleam like highly polished mirrors
reflecting delicate faces of a vainglorious past;

My children and I stand on this stone of long continuances
of Achaemenian emperors, Darius, Xerxes,

disgraced at the hands of Alexander the Great
who ascended the stone staircase

leading to your country’s dreams;
beyond the wall of date palms

set fire to the State of the free,
the wealth of social accord,

destroying that final bloom
of imperial eastern civilization,

its art now reduced to building missiles,
its architecture to flimsy tents in hot wind,

ghazals about lost battles drifting
across cloudy mirrors.

THE HOLY PRESENT and FARDA will be available from amazon.com or The Border Press, P.O. Box 3124, Sewanee, TN 37375.
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