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Where am I Living? When am I Living?
Poem by Pejman Tehranian
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Where am I Living? When am I Living?
Poem by Pejman Tehranian

(page 28 of 93)

Keywords: eleventh transmission, poetry, fiction, photography, visual art, spoken word, film, socially engaged,
political, human experience, writing, satire, photojournalism, activist art, activism, socially conscious, art

Where am I Living? When am I Living?
Many Stories within One

By Pejman Tehranian

For Lena Bishop

Suddenly, I wake up early in the morning with some kind of anxiety
within myself, some kind of emptiness, absurdity.
Where am I living?
In a different place, far from my motherland.
During these months after immigration, although I am living with some
of my family members, I miss my mother, my father, my friends, my
own house, my hometown.
When am I living?
In a different time, too different from my motherland. Here, we are
waking up; there, they are going to sleep!
So, I am living in a double time, double place, double language, double
history and geography. I am living a double life.

There is always so much bad news coming from my homeland. Guilty
beasts still alive and in power, and innocent people dying, or being
killed, in prison or outside…
I turn on the computer and go on the Internet: some young men have
been hanged in public, from the trees of a park called the “Artists
House Park”. The “Artists House” centre is located in the centre of this
park. I have many memories of this place…
Execution in the “Artists House Park”! They have been hanged on the
charge of bullying. They had attempted to steal a small amount of
money by using daggers but they hadn’t killed anyone. Blood-thirsty
big-fat lying thieves don’t tolerate tiny skinny money-in-needs!
The anti-art, anti-culture government has found a new function for the
“Artists House Park”: “Ladies and gentlemen! Here is our latest free
performance: The severest punishment in the public for a medium
crime committed by some poor guys!”
Maybe that’s why I am feeling so bad this morning. As if, even before
hearing of it, the bad news itself had found its way through my soul
while I have been sleeping.
It’s like a daytime nightmare. It feels like we are living on a different
planet, in a different time, a planet that is run by vicious devils, even
more savage ones than some so-called “communist” leaders in the

Reading and translating literature have made everything more
mysterious and complicated for me; including sense of time, sense of
place; to the extent that sometimes I feel I am living more than a
double-life; maybe triple-life, maybe multiple-life. I am living all the lives
I am reading and translating… Is it the beginning of some kind of
During my first weeks here, I translated a short story from a young
Canadian writer about Isaac Babel, a Russian writer who was
executed by the firing squad of Soviet government in 1940. The
middle part of the story illustrates Babel in prison, during the last hours
of his life. “Babel drifts into sleep and the cafe scene acquires the
fluidity of dream... He smells the coffee and cigarettes, the breath of
Parisian spring… The cafe begins to develop odd angles, strange
doors and stranger windows. Without warning, Babel slips out of his
chair and tumbles into the sky. No one notices... He is awoken by the
sound of a key in the door… a door opens and he emerges into a
cellar, where four or five men are raising their rifles.”
My Russian-Canadian English teacher told me that we can hardly
regard Babel as an innocent victim of the Red Terror. She wrote to
me that, in addition to being an artist, Babel was a Red Commander
during the Civil war in Russia and executed a lot of innocent people.
So, the story of his death is much more complicated than presented
by a young Canadian writer and a young Iranian translator! His death
might have been his redemption.
I also translated some poems from an American poet, C. K. Williams,
about his youth and age from 1940s to 1960s. It took me back through
the tunnel of time, to my childhood, my mother, my grandmother in
1970s and 1980s: “In those days/ those days which exist for me only
as the most elusive memory now…”

I am watching again, for the third time I think, one of my favorite
Iranian nostalgic movies, “The Pear Tree”, based on a short story with
the same title. It is about a writer who confronts Writer’s Block. He
couldn’t write anymore, just like an old pear tree in the film that couldn’t
bear fruit anymore. He has come back to his family land in the
countryside where he had spent summer holidays of his early youth,
especially a romantic summer when he fell in love with his cousin who
was older than him.
The main part of the movie contains this love story he remembers in
the gardens of this land. Then his cousin goes to Europe to study and
they never meet each other again after that summer, in spite of so
many letters from the girl which have not been responded by the writer
because he has preferred political activities to love. And that’s why he
is now very regretful… At the end of the film, the writer goes and sits
under the pear tree peacefully, because now he has actually written his
true story about love and regret, the same story that we have watched
on the screen. So, finally, he bears his right fruit.

Now, I feel so content that art and literature can still play a unique role
in my life.
Now, I experience some kind of catharsis, some kind of purification,
redemption. I even don't hate the government of my homeland
anymore. I want to just let it go by...
Now, I know where and when I am living. I am living outside any place,
outside any time. I am breathing in the air of art, in the world of words
and images.
Now, I am living a unique life.
I am waking up again…

Poetry by Mariah Wilson.
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