By Athena Farrokhzad

Translated by Jen Hayashida

from Issue 23


My father said: To those who have more will be given
and from those who lack even more will be taken
My mother said: Take some more milk before it turns







My mother said: Wouldn’t it be strange to feel
a single night like this one
my language in your mouth



My father said: One spoonful for the executioners
one spoonful for the emancipators
one spoonful for the hungry masses
And one spoonful for me








My mother handed the glass to her mother and said: now we are even
Here is the milk back




My grandmother said: Your mother descends from the rising sun
She was named after the bud of a flower since she was born in spring
Your mother named you after a warrior to prepare you for winter





My grandmother said: During spring in Marghacho mint grew along the streams
Does the poem you are writing reveal any of this
My grandmother said: You snot-nosed little mutt
Come here and I’ll take your measurements and knit you a wool sweater







My mother said: If we meet again we will pretend we did not know each other
when you were hungry and it was I who carried the milk







My brother said: Black milk of dawn, we drink you at night



My brother said: The past is an assault never to be completed








My mother said: Write like this
For my opportunities my mother sacrificed everything
I must be worthy of her
everything I write will be true



My grandmother said: Write like this
Mothers and languages resemble each other
in that they incessantly lie about everything






My mother said: All families have their stories
but for them to emerge demands someone
with a particular will to disfigure



My mother said: You distort the injury with your unfortunate lie
There is a muteness that cannot be translated







My brother said: There is always something imperfect that remains inescapable
There is always something incomplete missing


Athena Farrokhzad is a poet, literary critic, translator, playwright, and teacher of creative writing at Biskops Arnö Författarskola. White Blight (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 2013) is her first volume of poetry, and it is being translated into a number of different languages, including Danish, Norwegian, Romanian, Spanish, Arabic, as well as staged as a play at the Swedish Radio and Unga Klara Theatres in Stockholm.

Jennifer Hayashida is the recipient of awards from, among others, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the New York Foundation for the Arts, PEN, the Witter Bynner Poetry Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. Recent translation projects include Ida Börjel’s Miximum Ca’Canny The Sabotage Manuals (Commune Editions, 2014) and Karl Larsson’s Form/Force (Black Square Editions, 2015); previous work includes Fredrik Nyberg’s A Different Practice (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2007), and Eva Sjödin’s Inner China (Litmus Press, 2005).

Original text: Athena Farrokhzad, White Blight. Brooklyn, NY: Argos Books, 2015.

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