Happiness in Herat

Happiness in Herat

I came here,
just as I write these lines,
with no fixed idea:
a blue-green mosque,
six shortened minarets,
two or three tombs,
memoirs of a poet-saint,
the names of Timur and his lineage.

I came across the wind of a hundred days.
It covered all my nights with sand.
It flayed my forehead and singed my eyelids.

dispersion of birds
the rumor of water running between stones
that are the footsteps of farmers.
(But the water tasted of dust.)
Whispers in the plains,
yellow-brown whirlwinds
insubstantial as my thoughts.
Round and round
in hotel rooms or hills:
this land a graveyard for camels
and always in my musings
the same crumbling faces.
Is the wind, lord of ruins,
my only teacher?

the minus sign keeps increasing.

At the tomb of a saint,
deep in a dry tree,
I drove a nail,

like others, against the evil eye:
but against myself.
(I said something:
words the wind swept away.)

One afternoon
the heights all came together.
Without changing places
the poplars strolled.
Sun on glazed tiles,
the sudden spring season.
In the Garden of Women
I climbed a turquoise dome.
Minarets tattooed with symbols:
beyond words and meanings,
the Kufic script read clear.

I did not have an eyeless vision,
I did not see forms flung about
till they faded into unmoving clarity,
into the Sufi’s Unity of Being.
I did not drink fullness in emptiness
nor see the thirty-two marks
of the Bodhisattva’s diamond-body.

All I saw was a blue sky
and all the different shades of blue,
and the white to green
of the full fan of poplar trees,
and at the crest of a pine,
more air than bird,
a black and white thrush.
I saw the world resting on itself.
I saw all the appearances.
And I called that half-hour:
Perfection of the Finite.

Octavio Paz

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2015

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