Thu, 21 January 2016
A chilly poem in harmony with the weather: ‘Snow’ by the wonderful Iranian poet, Azita Ghahreman, who now lives in exile in snowy Sweden.
‘Snow’ opens with the arresting lines:
This sheet that stretches from here to the world's end
is covered by all that fallen snow.
Why must we be lost too?
The seemingly endless snow is a metaphor for the hopelessness the poet feels – she and her lover are lost in its vastness. Only ‘a single stray earring’ can be seen – ‘not a tree, not a rabbit, not a star’.
In the next stanza, Azita describes ‘that long night’ of their relationship. In this very fine translation by Maura Dooley and Elhum Shakerifar, note the verbs that Maura has chosen to signal the violent feelings the relationship’s breakdown inspires, one in each line: ‘chucked out’, ‘shook out’ and ‘threw’. That image of throwing ‘the sheets into the laundry basket’ brings us back to the beginning of the poem: the ‘sheet… covered by all that final snow’ is now a literal as well as a metaphorical sheet. And note the force of that final, understated yet heartbreaking line: ‘I died a little’.
The final stanza of this perfectly poised poem stands back to consider the relationship itself, which once was ‘a fresh, wild garden’ that now is ‘covered / by sheets of falling snow’. The final line of the poem contains a small, sad pun: the snow is ‘shrouding everything still....’. This has the dual meaning of ‘shrouding everything [that is] still’ i.e. shrouding everything that cannot move and is silent; and ‘shrouding everything still’, i.e. continuing to shroud everything, perhaps for a very long time.