Inscription

The stone lay there like a mountain
and we sat here a weary bunch
women, men, young, old
all linked together
at the ankles, by a chain.
You could crawl to whomever your heart desired
as far as you could drag your chain.
Pushing a Large Stone

We did not know, nor did we ask
was it a voice in our nightmare and weariness
or else, a herald from an unknown corner,
it spoke:
“The stone lying there holds a secret
inscribed on it by wise men of old.”
Thus spoke the voice over and again
and, as a wave recoiling on itself
retreated in the dark
and we said nothing
and for some time we said nothing.
Afterwards, only in our looks
many doubts and queries spoke out
then nothing but the ambush of weariness, oblivion
and silence, even in our looks
and the stone lying there.
One night, moonlight pouring damnation on us
and our swollen feet itching
one of us, whose chain was the heaviest
damned his ears and groaned: “I must go”
and we said, fatigued: “Damn our ears
damn our eyes, we must go.”
and we crawled up to where the stone lay one of us, whose chain was looser

climbed up and read:
“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”
With a singular joy we repeated this dusty secret
under our breath as if it were a prayer
and the night was a glorious stream filled with moonlight.
One…two…three…heave-ho!
One…two…three…once more!
sweating sad, cursing, at times even crying
again…one…two…three…thus many times
hard was our task, sweet our victory
tired but happy, we felt a familiar joy
soaring with delight and ecstasy.
One of us, whose chain was lighter
saluted all, then climbed the stone
wiped the dirt-caked inscription and mouthed the words
(we were impatient)
wetted his lips (and we did the same)
and remained silent
cast a glance at us and remained silent
read again, his eyes fixed, his tongue dead
his gaze drifting over a far away unknown

we yelled to him”
“Read!” he was speechless
“Read it to us!” he stared at us in silence
after a time
he climbed down, his chain clanking
we held him up, lifeless as he was
we sat him down
he cursed our hands and his
“What did you read? huh?”
He swallowed and said faintly:
“The same was written:
“He shall know my secret
who turns me over!”
We sat
and
stared at the moon and the bright night
and the night was a sickly stream.

Translation: Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak

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