Here Is the Promised Latitude

September 2, 2020

Rosa Jamali (b.1977) is an Iranian poet based in Tehran. She studied Dramatic Literature at the Art University of Tehran and earned a master’s degree in English literature at Tehran University. She has published six collections of poetry so far. Her first book, titled This Dead Body Is Not an Apple, It Is Either a Cucumber or a Pear, was published in 1997. Critics credit this collection with opening new landscapes and possibilities for contemporary Persian poetry. Through paronomasia and broken syntax, she describes a surreal world in which words lose their original meaning and turn into jumbled objects in everyday life. In her other collections, Jamali adapted the musical structures of classical Persian poetry, mixing them with the natural cadences of speech and juxtaposing long and short sentences. In her recent poems, she has drawn upon Persian mythology and mysticism, experimenting with the imagery of Persian Illuminationist poets such as Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi (1154-1191 AD). Non-Iranian poets such as T.S. Eliot and John Ashbery have also greatly influenced Jamali’s poetry. Of this poem, she says: “The idea came to my mind when I was in Mashhad with some friends and we were listening to a Hebrew song. The street I am describing in this poem is Kouhsangi Street in Mashhad, which ends in a hillside. Mashhad is the capital city of Khorasan Province, where some outstanding works of Persian mythology were created. The energy and magic in the place made me compare it with the promised land.”


Please find the name of this city:

There is a sign that starts from the top of one street.

The last sign on this street is a mountain made of my profile.

There is a city named “Y”

with an elevation of one thousand meters above sea level.

It has been mapped on the palm of my hand.

Now that I have mingled with your third force,

gravity is less forceful.

The last sign on this street, however,

is a mountain made of my profile.

Here is where I have turned into the world in profile —

is this the same promised latitude?

Here is the area, imprinted on my heartline.

There is a gravity in me.

Your curving triangle,

indentations of a new labyrinth —

is my shirt caught on your hanger?

(Ah, I totally forgot that there was no pear in this city;

my clothes are like a dark pear on your hanger.

Oxygen is in the air,

and a glass of water.

How I love you.

I was just as lonely as a cherry.

How I love you!)

(The area is equal to that dream.

Here is a three-sided figure,

like your heart,

folded but starched —

this side of it, however, will never be creased.)

There is a sign that starts from the top of one street,

which has gone dizzyingly through the streets of this city

and now has come up to the curve of my larynx.

Is this the same promised latitude?

The last thing that I left for this city

was my profile shapelessly whirling in the wind.

I have stepped back, but my heart has gone ahead of me.

The height of my heart has been drawn on the walls of that city —

it is a tangent-spear.

The intersection of these two lines is your future,

an alternate photo of me.

Were you my line of symmetry?

(You appeared in the end; you were not on my heartline; my area has been left in your city; this is my most enigmatic allusion; please find the name of this city.)

The name of that city, however, was the most difficult word that had entered my mind till that day.

My memory had been left on that city’s ivy.

The name of that city was never found.

Now the ivy in your house is my inverse proportion.

My shirt is caught on your hanger,

Tonight included, it has been one thousand and one night that I have not slept.

Tomorrow will be the day after my birth.

Tomorrow a double cherry will be that city.

Two circles for certain are our altered shapes.

And the last sign on that street

is a mountain made of my profile, to be continued…

Translated by Babak Mazloumi