After purchasing a copy of translated poems by Forugh Farrokhzad and a blue ceramic plate wrapped in white tissue paper, I head home cold through the snow’s mist-shapen road forming one blank turn. It is early March, and as usual, I hope to hear the spirit of my mother’s native pessimism faintly pass through a line of translated poetry. If you break the speed of sound, sound itself disappears.
So as expected, I couldn’t hear her. The translation just a weird bird of itself sounding internet. However, it is easier to listen without the intention of trying to know, so I wait in case something is silvering through. The tube to Bethnal Green in seven minutes and the poem speeching like:
‘Dark are lamps of relationship / Dark are lamps of relationship.’
These lines are ok. They remind me of two dimmed out hearts, or beyond a dark garden on a private road. And it’s not exactly like my mother was clear in her relationships, nor were her relationships a way to pile dead stars in the drawer.
But ‘I am depressed / I am depressed / I go out on the verandah’ doesn’t quite scratch her itch.
The first time I visited her bedside at the psychiatric hospital, I was six. It later became an ongoing habit to roll down a green hill beforehand. I try to forget how hard it was to do, but it did instil trust in me that the sound of my body on the earth, was a parable of speed to the earth. My fluent and fast rolling was to believe
If you break the speed of sound,
sound itself disappears. I gather some momentum to say, if my mother wasn’t dead it would no longer depress her to be first to the municipal swimming pool, towel down. First to the public event programming meeting involving an ongoing saga with the local council, a nearby wet hat wrapped in a split plastic bag, needing to be replaced by another plastic bag. It was ultimately things like her refusal to trust white psychiatrists, or when she brought an entire cucumber to ride the London Eye that would cue my Nan, or my Madar-joon, to mispronounce the situation as ‘the London Eyes’.
One afternoon we found ourselves together on this monument’s rotation. Madar-joon expressed what seemed to be a particular Persian serenity, followed by anxiety, as she tried to take in the entire view all at once.
I can’t approximate where Farsi fell most silent here,
but there was a draft in my cheeks.
I broke the speed of sound to Madar-joon like, you don’t need to memorise it all, Madar-joon.
I would do this for her fear of calories, her fear of wearing a certain pair of shoes in the living room while the news was always on, and the smell of boiled white rice remained unventilated. Madar-joon wanted to mention how a distant cousin Soraya has a friend dating the George Michael of the Arab world, Amr Diab. But it’s difficult to do that. Dardet to joonam means may your pain hit my body. It is a way to say ‘I love you’ in Farsi, and I’ve wondered if that is indicative of how Persians are so ready to receive love.
Yet here I am in my dilutions, light-skinned and eating a yogurt, so far away from my cousin on the sofa telling me I open fruit wrong and shouldn’t put Dardet to joonam in a poem, with no further explanation. I didn’t contest this at the time, but I am now.
I would like her to know, there’s something to be said for how a gene might bend to its historic desert, or bend to a stack of found letters documenting a husband’s affair leading to a succession of women with the same strong calf muscles.
My face is an archive of my previous faces by this logic. Therefore, when its Sunday afternoon and I’m in Spa room 3, about to undergo an appointment with a vortex healer, his specialism in co-morbid depression, I refer to my ‘past lives’ as all the lives that lead to my singular life. Whereas the vortex healer, a man called Andrew with a voice that behaves like a deep blue light, is saying the soul reincarnates beyond the bloodline. Despite our spiritual differences, I lie down on his white-paper table as he confirms I was once an ethereal Sumerian servant who never had the opportunity to speak.
And it’s not like this news results in a cycle of seasons in me, but as his hand hovers over my throat chakra it has me wondering If you break the speed of sound,
sound itself disappears. Is poetry, then, just like the line of silence behind me, is it an indirect impulse to speak. And is my real speaking containing a condensed software of breaths, the knowledge of my voice just under this finally and waiting, leading up to this, to this wanting to break the speed of, to this so nearly white.
When the tube arrives at Bethnal Green, I look down at my lap to see the white tissue paper has begun to unfurl from the plate. Meaning, the coloured plate is visible, its blue shine holding light like a lacquered ghost. Despite feeling unqualified, and in a bid to return home, I remove the plate from the shopping bag. I raise it above my head inside the cramped carriage to show anyone the pre-emptive sound it expresses, as if articulated by materialised form; it’s unrestored, nearly white circumstance.
Image © Ashok Boghani