This blog seeks to capture the essence of Persian culture through passages of song lyrics, poetry, jokes,
anecdotes, and random tidbits. Please feel free to leave comments about how any item does or does not
meet the measure of what "Persian" means in your life. Click here for additional description.

Cycle of Giving

A young prince happened by an old man who was planting a walnut tree. The young prince admonished him: "Old man, a walnut tree won't bear fruit for another thirty years. What are you hoping for? Do you think that you will ever live long enough to see this tree bear fruit?"

The old man answered:

"There is no need for me to see this tree bear fruit! Others planted and we ate their fruits. We plant so others eat."

From: The young prince in this story was apparently King Anooshirvan of the Sassanid Dynasty.

The Pauper Wears Prada

He drives a late model luxury car. He lives in an exclusive neighborhood with the right zip code. His clothing alone costs a small fortune. But then you see his bank statements and are shocked to learn that he is barely making ends meet. You share the story with your wise Persian mother. And, in explaining the lengths to which some people will go to maintain appearances, she tells you:

His red cheeks are from slapping his own face.

(DAreh bA seelee sooratesho sorkh mikoneh)

A lighthouse Won't Fit Under the Rug

Imagine you are working at, say, the White House, and people around you are deciding to invade a foreign country and overthrow its dictator. But, no one, it seems, is spending a lot of time planning for what to do with that foreign country once the job of overthrowing the dictator is accomplished.

Influenced by Persian culture, you might point out the importance of planning by saying:

First dig the hole, then steal the lighthouse.

(Aval chAh ro bekan, ba'dan menAr rA bedozd).

Water Has Reached Past Our Head

The water level has reached passed our head.
(Aab az saremoon gozashteh)

The idea behind this Farsi expression is rather simple: "It's too late!" Though the image that comes to mind is of a Titanic-scenario crisis where the ship has sunk, the expression is probably used more commonly where a neglected problem was years in the making. A growing debt. A troubled marriage.

The Man Who Boasts

Ladies who often hear men (or his family) boasting about the long list of the man's fine qualities (or his assets) can probably relate to the following poem.

A fragrance is one whose aroma speaks for itself
Not the one that is described in the words of its salesman.

From Sa'adi's "Golestan". This poem appeared in the fourth grade text book in Iran.

When You Save But Don't Eat

Two kinds of people, we are advised, suffered in vain and let their efforts go to waste: the one who saved but did not eat, and the one who learned but never acted.

As much knowledge as you might study,
If there is no action within you,
You know nothing.

From Sa'adi's "Golestan". An excerpt of this poem appeared in the fourth grade text book in Iran.

Must Have Seemed Like A Good Idea

He got inspired by the experience of a disabled fox. Wondering how the immobile fox survived, the man watched as a lion happened by holding a jackal it had hunted in its mouth. The lion ate most of the jackal but his leftovers were more than enough to feed the disabled fox.

A similar thing happened the next day, and the man marveled at the glory of God for taking care of his creations. But he also got an idea. He would stop working and just depend on God. After all, he had seen first-hand how God delivered for the fox. Surely, God would do no less for him.

So the man stopped working, but neither friend nor stranger came to his aid. Though feebled in his condition, the man could hear a message while praying:

Go be the mighty lion,
You fraud.
Don't make as if you are the disabled fox.
Strive so that like the lion
You can make the foxes full with your leftovers.
Eat, as much as possible, by the strength of your own arm,
For your meal shall be the size of efforts of your own.
Young man, take the hand of the old and the poor,
Don't hold yourself down and ask for a hand.

From Sa'di's "Boostan". This poem was excerpted in the fifth grade text book in Iran. The poem also appeared on the last midterm exam I took in Iran before leaving for the United Sates.

The Rock of Regrets

A caravan was travelling through the night and stumbled upon the side of a mysterious-looking mountain that the caravan's leaders could not identify. So they approach the old man who was travelling with them with a few pebbles off the mountain to see if he can recognize it.

The old man, who is apparently identified in books of religions from Judaism to Islam (not to mention Mormonism) as the Prophet Job, examined the pebbles and declared "It's the Rock of Regrets."

Hearing this, most of the men in the caravan decided to ignore the pebbles and the mountain. "Why should we burden our heavy loads," they figured, "with the Rock of Regrets." A few though, take some of the smaller pebbles with them.

The caravan then continued to travel through the night and by morning had reached a place far from that mysterious mountain. With the benefit of sunlight, the men open up their loads and made a startling discovery. The pebbles, which Job had identified as a Rock of Regret, had turned out to be diamonds!

An angry mob of all the men in the caravan descended on Job to chastise him. Job, however, maintained his ground. "It's the Rock of Regrets," he said, "Those of you who didn't take any of the Rock regret not taking any of it, and those of you who took some of the Rock, regret not taking more."

"So, it's the Rock of Regrets."

Whatever the significance of Job (Ayoob) or this story may be in any religion (my understanding is that this particular story is based on a story in the Koran though it may exist in other religions as well), the story, which was found in a children's storybook in Iran, is consistent with the Persian values of being content with what you have and not being greedy for more.

When Her Hands Feel Cold in Yours

After sometime away, he is back in town. He had last seen his girl in a tearful goodbye, where he had sought to reassure her that his trip would be short.

Now I have come back
Bringing all of your hopes with me.
Your beautiful hands though
Feel cold in my hands.
The look in your eyes tell me
They're not coming back.

All he asks is for some honest answers, urging her to tell him if she has given her heart to someone else. In his urging for honesty, he invokes moral/religious duty.

Giving your heart to that and the other
Is a sin
You want to fly away from my roof,
Just tell me.

From "Traveller" (Mosafer) by various artists including Shahram Shabpareh and Afshin Moghadam.

Wedding Night Advice

No doubt, to-be-married couples get a lot of advice from a variety of people. On the night of their wedding, this advice-giver has two pieces of advice for the couple. One is the admonition for the bride to finally act on her desires and kiss the groom right away. The second is perhaps less immediate.

Observing that the kind God has brought the two hearts together, the man says:

As life lasts only two days,
God forbid that you lose those two days
Over petty things.
Travel through the desert of love
For as long as you can.

The reference to life lasting only two days is a point heard in other Persian poems/songs. Evidently, the belief is that we are born today and tomorrow we die. Therefore we only have the present. Tonight.

The association of love and desert is also a popular one in Persian literature. It probably goes back, at least, to the story of Leili and Majnoon, an 800-year-old story of teen lovers not unlike Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. In the story, out of his love for Leili, Majnoon fled to the desert.

Incidentally, in urging her to kiss the groom right away, he points out:

The groom has already kissed you,
He has cut the bud of your lips,
For the pigeon of your heart,
He has dispersed seeds tonight.

From Manoochehr Sakhaee's Flower-Haired Bride (Gol Be Sar Aroos)

When Wolves Find Religion

He has heard her say it all before. And he is not going to fall for it again.

He is not going to believer her false I love you's and I'll die for you's. No, not anymore. And he makes his point emphatically by repeating a colorful Persian proverb relating to how creatures do not change and will act according to nature as long as they live.

Those words mean nothing to me.
The whole world knows
The repentance of a wolf is death.
The repentance of a wolf is death.

God Would Almost Have Reason to be Jealous

Love is not strong enough to describe how she feels about this man. No, she boldly uses the W word.

A term of endearment that is ordinarily for one supreme being. Blasphemous? Perhaps. Except, that she is quite open and honest to all parties about it.

When I heard you were coming,
I sat facing God.
I said, “After You, O God,
I worship him."

From Mahasti's "Housecleaning" (Khooneh Tekooni)

She is the Light of Daddy's House

Like all loving fathers, he wants to pass on the wisdom of his experience to his little girl, who he calls "The Light of Dad's House". He acknowledges how dear she is to him and how much he has spoiled him. But he continues to describe her place in the world in a way that reflects his Persian culture.

In your little world,
There is you and your dolls.
They being your toys.

You being the toy of the world.

Of course, she will grow up and experience both joy and sorrow, he says. But he urges that for as long she is not going to make sense out of the world, she should sleep tight. As lullabies go, this father is certainly sending mixed messages about life.; though you might say he is just being very realistic. Still, he fully expects her to be disappointed by life.

A day will come when Dad
Will sit at home all alone.
That will be the time that you drunkenly
Will laugh at me and this world.

From Aghili's "Light of Dad's House" (Cheragh-e-Khoone Baba"

Moses and the Shepherd

Moses happened to see a Shepherd who was praying to God. In his prayer, the Shepherd was seeking out the location of God, so he could become, quite literally, a servant for God. The Shepherd was offering to sew His clothes, and comb His hair, and kiss His Hands, and massage His feet, etc.

Hearing all this, Moses tells the Sheepherder to stop such talk which is not befitting of God or a God worshipper (the 'Moses' of this story is an ecuminical one). Hearing Moses' point, the Shepherd sighs, and runs away all embarassed and ashamed.

A Voice came to Moses from God:

Why did you distance my creation from Me?
You are there to bring us closer not apart.
We don't look at appearances or words
We look at their 'inside' and their heart.

Hearing this, Moses seeks out the Shepherd and tells him:

Good News.
Don't worry about any style or form;
Just tell God whatever your heart desires.

From Rumi's "Moses and the Shepherd" (Moosa va Shaban); This poem, from the Seventh Century, long appeared in the fifth grade text book. Many of your parents' or grandparents' generation might still be able to recall some of its words by heart).

When One Size Does Not Fit All

A young man had gotten stuck in a tree, so the villagers sought the advice of a nearby man. "Throw him a rope, have him hold on to it, then pull the rope," he confidently instructed them. Blindly following his advice, the villagers caused the young to suffer a broken leg. Angry, the villagers approached the nearby man and asked why he had given such lousy advice.

"I don't know what happened this time," he responded in punzzlement, "Last week, someone had fallen in the lake; I gave the same exact advice and it worked out beautifully!"

(Based on the stories of Mulla Nasreddin).

Till Death Do Us Unite--When Windows Fall in Love

You probably don't think of windows as particulary capable of emotions. Neither do I. But, suppose two windows in the same building happen to fall in love with one another. What might that feel like? And what would be the prospects for them ever hooking up? In the world of windows in love, the walls are the cruel hands of destiny that are keeping the lovers apart.

The wall is of a black stone.
A cold rough limestone.
Has attached a lock of silence
To our worn lips.
We can't even wiggle
Under the weight of the wall.

The entire tale of our love
Is the story of the wall.

Naturally though, being windows, their entire existence is dependent on the wall. Where would a window be without the wall? The windows realize this dilemma too and rely on the wind to be in touch with the other. But they harbor hope of a different fate.

Wish that this wall would collapse!
You and I would die together.
In a different world,
We could hold one another's hand.

And the windows have a particular vision, for this Heaven of theirs.

Maybe in that world,
They won't have walls
Between their window.

From Googoosh's "Two Windows" (Doa Panjereh)

I Would Like to Get Drunk---On Love

Even getting drunk can seem romantic in a Persian song. You get the feeling that being 'drunk' in the sense used in Persian songs and poetry is entirely different than our common image of being passed out by some alley.

I want to get drunk tonight
Be totally in love.
Without you, I was nothing,
Tonight, I want to exist.

I have an unworthy life
Let it be sacrificed for you
Be thrown at your steps
Let it be the soil under you feet

And, as I mentioned earlier, a thorough understanding of Sufism (which I readily admit that I lack) may be required to fully appreciate such poetry (esp. its references to being drunk), but note again, the concept of sacrificing one's life for their beloved.

From Moein's "Drunk" (Mast)

Looking For the Man Who Knows the Pleasant Song of Love

She knows he is out there somewhere. She may not have seen him yet, but she will recognize him for sure. How?

  • He calls her with the pleasant song of love;
  • He does for her what the touch of the dew does to the flower;
  • He frees her from her 100-year jail sentence;
  • He is intimate with her body the way the rain is with the lawn;
  • He is tender the way night's tears are to a lonely lover;
  • He has the breath of spring in his chest;
  • He can be the dawn of sun;
  • He can be that rare jewel for the ring of love

From Marjan's "Who Called On To Me?" (Ki Seda Kard Mano)

Closer To Your Body Than Even Your Shirt

The more he watches her dance at the party, the more he wants her. And he wants her bad.

Like the flowers in the wind
Like the wind among the leaves
Like the leaves in the wind

Keep dancing your body.
A spring of light wouldn't be like this.
Light wouldn't be like this.
What is that is glittering
In that dancing of yours?

Watching all of this, he is going into a frenzy. He wants her closer to him than he can imagine it:

As close as your lips are to your mouth
As close as your body is to your shirt
Even as close as light to your body,
I want you even closer.
Still closer.

The reason for his is desire is no mystery at all. That's how nature works.

If the flower desires its scent,
If the eye desires the light,
I desire you even more.
I swear to God, I desire you even more.

As she is dancing, he notices more than just her body:

Your drunken eyes,
As though they are the wine of Shiraz
Your Face, like the flower,
Is brimming with dew
What shall I say about your lips?
My words cannot suffice.

From Sadegh Nojouki's "Commotion" (Veleleh)

Making Do in the Prada World

One might think that the Persian values of being content with what we have and not worrying about material goods have lost their relevance in the Prada world of Beverly Hills and Kings Point. Yet, one of the more popular songs over the past few years among Persians has been Moein's "Moments" (Lahzeha) which evokes those exact values:

Enjoy the little you have
Release sadness and suffering
If there is no sea
Make do with the drop!

God of the Drunks

Regardless of your religious beliefs--or your drinking habits--you probably have not prayed to the God of the Drunks too many times. Yet, that is precisely what is happening in the song lyrics described below, where the man is pleading with God, God of the Drunks, to bring he and his beloved together.

God of the Drunks,
God of the Wine Worshippers
In the name of all that is love
Bring us to one another
Bring us to one another

After mentioning how hard it is to be apart from one another, he goes on to say:

Think of us
Think of those in love
We, who are drunk with love
Let us be.
Let us be.

Note that in Islam, drinking alcohol is prohibited. So the idea of the God of the Drunks sounds not only jarring but also quite blasphemous. But the man clarifies that they are not drunk with alcohol---they are drunk with love. Thus, God of the Drunks, would in essence, be the God of Those in Love.

(Persian poetry is filled with references to drunkedness and drinking. I must confess that I do not know its significance all that well. I believe the references have their roots in Sufism, which has influenced certain aspect of Persian poetry).

From: God of the Drunks (Khodaye Mastoon)

You Be the Rose, I'll be the Dew

She wants him close to her. How close? Well, pretty close. But listen to the metaphors she uses to describe her sentiments. She wants them to be as close as:

  • a boat chained to the water
  • the dew in the dreams of a rose
  • the night that gets affectionate with sleep

Pretty romantic/sappy stuff (depending on your perspective).

From Nooshafarin's Vine ("Peechak")

Asleep When Love Knocked

Sometimes, love comes when we are not ready for it.

Unannounced, it knocked and left
I was asleep when it flew away.
It came and saw my heart was still asleep.
Not bothering to sit on the roof,
It flew away.

That, which is the light of hope
They say it comes from God
In the blackness of my nights
It is like the dawn of morning.

Maybe, but for the man in the song, that dawn does not come.

From Aref's Light of Hope (Noor-e-Omid)

Thank You, God For Bring You to Me

Some or even many of you may be familiar with the song "Sultan-e-Ghalbha" (Ruler of the Hearts), which was from a movie of the same name. But you may not know that the movie featured several versions of the song--same music but very different lyrics.

My favorite version is a duet that, at its end, describes the sentiments of along-separated couple who is finally reunited.

I will die for God
Whose Kindness brings the hearts together.
His Compassion solves the problems.
Thank You, God!

What's past is passed.
Troubles are part of the games of Destiny
Thank You, God
for is now Heaven
Our house.

What's past is passed, Come
Come, Let's say Thank You, God.
That He brought together our hearts.
Thank You, God

If, for a day, this Sky
Is Unkind to me and you
Today, there is no trace of sighs
Thank you, God.

From Aref & Ahdiyeh's Duet at closing credits of Ruler of the Hearts (Soltan-e-Ghalbha)

Alphabet of Love

This woman is describing her high opinion of her beloved as she ponders what sort of a gift to give him:

What should I throw at your feet
that would be worthy of your feet?
What shall I sing that could
Take the place of your words?

You might think with such lofty opinions of her beloved, the task of finding the appropriate gift would be impossible. Not to worry. She has it all covered.

My gift to you
Is a basket of affection
In return from you,
A smile would be plenty.

The guy seems to be hardly worth all this, yet, she seems to be more than willing to give:

The spread of my love is always open to you
Your love is the solution to all my problem,
I like to sacrifice all that I have for you
But your heart has no need for affection.

And why is she willing to give him so much?

I owe the warmth of my heart to your hands.
If you want my life, that would be fine with me.
I learned the alphabet of love from you
Whatever I have I owe to you.

The song demonstrates the element of sacrifice that so many of us have heard from our parents and grandparents: ghorboonet beram, fadat besham, etc. But, you can almost understand why she would be willing to sacrifice her life for him. He gave her something more valuable--the meaning of love.

From Googoosh's "Gift" (Peeshkesh)

Overflow Me With Desire

This man believes he has found his love. "My Love", excerpted below, is his expressoin of that belief:

I picked you out from among hundreds of flowers
In my chest, I threw a celebration of your love.
For the ending point of loneliness,
Yours was the only name I called.
My Love.

Talk and with the purity of the springs
Overflow me with desire.
With your hands form a ring of flowers
And toss it around my neck.

If out of skepticism
I am cool to humans
You caress my hads
For they have been cold for a long time.

From: Farzin's "My Love" (Eshghe man")

Every Breath I Take

He has been away on a trip. And she can't wait to see him again:

The dearest present for me
Would be the dust off your shirt
Seeing and smelling you again
Would be my re-birth.
My wanting you
Is not just from whim or desire.
You are my re-birth,
I want you for my breath.

From Shakila/Hayedeh's "Present" (Soghati)

SWF Seeks A Night with the Sea

You might not expect to hear a woman describing her desires in a Persian song. Yet, that seems to be precisely what you hear in the song described below, though the language is admittedly subtle. And unmistakably Persian in the true sense of the word. No mention of a woman desiring a man. Rather, we hear urging the Sea to introduce water to the soil.

Sea, call on to me
Introduce water to the soil again
Sea, my heart is all bound up
Free me from this bondage
Sea, talk to me.
Sea, answer me.

From: Mahasti's "Sea" (Darya)

If Only Your Eyes Say 'Yes'

What romantic/heroic things would you be willing do to express your joy of winning her heart, if only she said 'yes'?

Here are some suggestions, from one man who lists what he would do "If Only Your Eyes Say 'Yes' ":

  • Put the mountain on his shoulder
  • Fight in any war
  • Take the wave from the sea
  • Sap the rocks
  • Bring the moon to her house
  • Take target practice at the wind
  • Count every particle of soil on earth
  • Cut the stars of the skies and put them next to her eyes
  • replace the 'eyes' of the moon with pictures of her eyes
  • Remove the Sun, build a door for her eyes, and then put a mirror in front of her eyes (the idea being that in presence of her eyes, there would be no need for the sun).

Impossible, you say? Nonsense, says the man in love. "None of this would be any effort all, if your eyes say 'yes'.

From Daryoush's "Permission" ("Ejazeh" or "Ageh Cheshmat Began Areh")

Only Thing I Own is a Pure Heart

"I thought Persian values was about driving Mercedes and Ferrari's," said the 20-year old Persian college student innocently as we were riding on a Long Island Railroad train to Great Neck the other night. "I understand why you might think that," I said, "but true Persian values, believe it or not, are actually quite non-materialistic." He was understandably surprised, so I told him about the song lyrics below, whose subplot is about a man who was dumped by a woman. But the real story of the song is about being content with what you have.

Utterly free
From Because and Why
With what is given by God
Always content
Always content

After complaining to her about why she left him, the man goes on to declare himself to be a Darvish, a mystical figure whose origins are beyond the scope of this blog. For our purposes, note the man's attitude toward material things.

I am a darvish
And the world to me
Is nothing but a fist full of soil
The whole sum of my belongings
Is a pure heart.

A darvish will spend the night
On any old rag
A drop of water
Or an entire sea
Makes no difference to him.

(Golpa's "Darvish")

Grown Ups Miss the Cradle Too

Just because we are now a grown up doesn't mean there aren't times that we can use the comfort and security of childhood. That sentiment was captured eloquently, in a song performed by Googoosh entitled the "Cradle." (Gahvareh).

Having expressed to her mother her longing for the cradle, Googoosh then goes on to describe it.

That same cradle that I cannot recall
That same security that was real and true
That same place where the prince of the story
Always wanted the pauper girl
That same city that was my own size
Yet much bigger than this world
Where there was no fear of the shadow
Nor fright of the wind.
Where I would not get lost.
Nor would a pigeon.

Googoosh then anticipates her mother's answer that she is all grown up now. And, as bitter as it may seem, cradles are not becoming of a grown up. But that does nothing to make the adult child feel any different. She concludes the song with the same passage that started it:

I long to weep
Where is, mother,
My cradle?

I Love Her---But She Has No Clue

This song tells the story about a man who loves a woman but she does not know about it. He wants to tell her. He tries to tell her. But, as outlined below, something always happens to prevent it.

I look at her, hoping she would read it in my eyes.
She does not.
I wrote'I love you" on the leaf of a flower.
She sticks the flower in the hair of a child to get the child to smile.
I plead with the Breeze to take my message to my beloved.
Thunder intercedes and blocks my beloved from view.

From: Moein's "Yeki Ra Doost Midaram" (There is Someone That I Love")

What This Blog is All About

Hello Everyone. Welcome to my new blog.

To begin my introduction of the blog, let me say a few words about you. You have little or no memory of Iran. You don't speak fluent Farsi, if at all. Your parents or grandparents might have once lived there but for the most part, your connection to Persian culture is through its food, music, and some basic Farsi. Or maybe your only connection to Iran and Persian culture is having neighbors who come from that part of the world.

Regardless of your particular background, thank you for visiting this page, and I hope you take something from it.

Now that you have a sense of who my target audience is, I want to describe to you what my vision for the site is. To do that, I think it would be helpful to introduce myself and tell you a bit about my own background. My name is Raymond Iryami. I left Iran on January 4, 1982 at the age of 10 and, now, with about 25 minutes until my 36th birthday, I am a lawyer living in Great Neck, New York. I happen to be Jewish--yes, there exist Jews in Iran--but my religion is largely irrelevant to this blog.

I am creating this blog, because I have long sensed that there is an important aspect of being Persian that is simply not visible today on the streets of Middle Neck Road or Rodeo Drive. I will elaborate more on this point in other postings, but for now, let's just say that I hope will find items on this blog that will surprise you a bit. Stay tuned.

By nature, this blog will have no set format. But I expect to include in the blog items on topics including love, sex, broken hearts, loneliness, and God using English passages from Persian songs, poems, stories, fables, anecdotes, and proverbs. Naturally, your questions and comments are welcomed. I hope this will be the beginning of a meaningful dialogue for both of us.

About This Blog

This blog seeks to capture the essence of Persian culture through passages of song lyrics, poetry, jokes, anecdotes, and random tidbits.