“Fly, Howl, Love, A Tribute to the Life of Forugh Farrokhzad” a poem by Shideh Etaat

Our house was at the end of an alley, at the end of all things, it seemed, when we were little girls living among the shadows of the walls,

the trees bearing figs, sour cherries.

And Forugh, always with her notebook. Filling those pages with what?
It seemed so big in her small hands then, that notebook, as if she herself
could fit inside those pages.

She would climb trees, hop on walls, howl like a wolf, fight with boys
she would rather have been loving.

She put her arms out one moonless night— pretending to be an airplane, to be the entire sky, and I watched from the dull pond,
home to the red goldfish and brown frogs, because my eyes were stuck on her.
Everyone’s eyes were stuck on her.

At sixteen when she married, moved to a city named after a song, she found something like freedom in plucked eyebrows,
eyes lined thick with black,
in lips painted red
and short, short skirts.

She walked into that editor’s office with her hair disheveled,
her ink-stained hands
as blue as oceans on a map,

taking over the entire earth it would seem with such small hands as she held a paper that had been folded
and squeezed between her fingers
for days, years, her entire life.

They would call her a poetess because poet would mean being a woman didn’t matter. And it always matters.

And even in such freedom she lost him. An unfit mother they proclaimed,
a whore making love to all the world with only words.

I have sinned a rapturous sin
in a warm enflamed embrace. Sinned in a pair of vindictive hands, arms violent and ablaze.

When someone wants to reach the heart of this earth, it becomes impossible
to not always do just this.

I want to hang my heart like A ripe fruit
On every branch of every tree.

Even in the beginning,
even on that fig tree
at the end of the alley,
at the end of all things,
she hung it there too.
It still sways in the damp air as if no one is watching.

I will not speak of death,
of cold lips and the movement of machines, of skin and bone touching concrete
loud enough for all to hear.

But I will say that always, always at the center of it, even by that dull pond as I watched her write,
fly, howl, it was always love.


About the Poet

Shideh Etaat is a writer/educator who received her MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. Her poetry can be found in Flatmancrooked’s Slim Book of Poetry, the Atlanta Review, Iran Issue, and the recent anthology The Forbidden: Poems from Iran and its Exiles. She is a 2010 Semifinalist for the Nimrod Literary Award’s Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction and a 2010 Glimmer Train Fiction Open Finalist. She is a 2011 Breadloaf Work Study Scholar and is in the process of completing her first novel.