Mar 8, 2023

Conquest of the Garden (fathé bāgh) by Forough Farrokhzad ( شعر فتح باغ فروغ فرخزاد)

    Today happens to be International Women’s Day, so I will share my analysis of a poem by Forough Farrokhzad, an Iranian poet and an Iranian woman. To read the full poem without my analysis breaking it up, click here. To read the poem in Farsi, click here. I have included romanized Farsi for most stanzas, which I got from Chai and Conversation. To listen to the poem in Farsi, click here.

ān kalāghy ké pareed
as farāzé saré mā
va foroo raft dar andeesheyé āshoféeye abree velgard
va sedāyash hamchon neyzeyé kootāhee, pahnāyé ofogh rā paymood
khabaré mā rā bā khod khāhad bord bé shahr

That crow which flew over our heads
and descended into the disturbed thought
of a vagabond cloud
and the sound of which traversed
he breadth of the horizon
like a short spear
will carry the news of us to the city.

    Forough Farrokhzad begins the poem, fathé bāgh, with a pattern of playing with sound. “An kalaghyke pareed” contains an internal rhyme, the ah, ee, and ey sounds of kalaghy ke pareed.

In the first stanza, she describes a bird disturbing a calm nature scene, or a serene moment of focus on a single beautiful perfect thing, like a cloud and reminding you where you are - that feeling of almost jerking back into your body, like, “oh yes, this. I forgot for a moment.”  This conveys longing.

“And the sound of which traversed the breadth of the horizon/ like a short spear will carry news of us to the city” – She draws a comparison between real nature, the bird, disturbing the way we enjoy looking at nature, as beautiful art, just like real living often disturbs societal expectations of how people are supposed to behave. The short spear is a weapon that pierces, just as reality pierces through an ideal of what should be, and which ultimately kills it, like disillusionment. Forough’s comparison of the bird’s voice to a short spear that “will carry news of us to the city” also expresses her awareness of how this news will be used as a weapon against her.

hamé meedānand
hamé meedānand
ké man ō tō az ān rozaneyé sardé aboos
bāgh rā deedeyeem
va az ān shākheyé bāzeegar door az dast
seeb rā cheedeyeem

Everyone knows,
everyone knows
that you and I have seen the garden
from that cold sullen window
and that we have plucked the apple
from that playful, hard-to-reach branch.

Disillusionment is also in the next stanza, “hame meedanand ke man o to az an rozaneye sarde aboos bagh ra deedeyeem va az an shakheye bazeegar door az dast seeb ra cheedeyeem.” Everyone knows that we have done something together that we are not supposed to do.  This stanza is beautiful because of the proud way Forough has chosen to express the sentiment as “seeing the garden” and “we have plucked the apple from the playful, out of reach branch.” She says, “we have done something that not everyone can do, and we are better for it.” This may make some people feel defensive of their own long, faithful and monogamous relationships but I think we have to understand that Forough is not praising infidelity and decrying marriage here. She is praising free will and the ability to make a choice for yourself, to experiment and find love and beauty within yourself.  

The repetition of hame meedanand sets the rhythm of the following internal rhymes between the next four lines which follow a syllabic pattern with “an rozaneye sarde aboos” and “an shakheye bazeegar door az dast” and the skipped line rhyme of “bagh ra deedeyeem” and “seeb ra cheedeyeem.”  Beautiful and this stanza really shows how poetic the Persian language is.

hamé meetarsand
hamé meetarsand
amā man o tō
bā cherāgh o āb o āyeené payvasteem
va natarseedeem

Everyone is afraid
everyone is afraid, but you and I
joined with the lamp
and water and mirror and we were not afraid.

“Hame meetarsand, hame meetarsand” literally everyone fears, everyone fears, but me and you embraced the real meaning behind lamp, water and mirror and felt no fear. She refers here to the revolutionary experience of self-agency and going against societal norms. People and society generally are afraid of free will because it emphasizes the fragility of our lives. Forough embraces the fragility of her life. She feels it keenly and that awareness fills her with power and knowledge, which she expresses in this poem. The lamp, water and mirror are the societal norms she uses to invert our view of what life is. They are pillars of a marriage ceremony that are meant to symbolize the binding of lives together but she uses their visual meaning – light, clarity and reflection - to emphasize the very opposite, the unbound purity of life and freedom.

sokhan az payvandé sosté dō nām
va hamāghdooshee dar orāgheh kohneyé yek daftar neest
sokhan az geesooyeh khoshbakhté manast
bā shaghāyeghhayé sookhteyé booseyé tō

I am not talking about the flimsy linking
of two names
and embracing in the old pages of a ledger.
I'm talking about my fortunate tresses
with the burnt anemone of your kiss
She openly addresses this in her next stanza, “I am not talking about the flimsy linking of two names and embracing in the old pages of a ledger.” She upholds the physical side of love as equal to the institutional, contractual definition of it with, “I’m talking about my fortunate tresses with the burnt anemone of your kiss.”  She means here that the acts of physical love are the purest forms of love, because the contractual love of a marriage can have no bearing on people’s real feelings and treatment of each other.

Forough seems to follow her established rhyme scheme when she begins the previous stanza with “hame meetarsand, hame meetarsand” (everyone fears, everyone fears) but then with “payvasteem va natarseedeem” she says, we joined and were not afraid.  The stanza conveys several meanings at once, everyone fears but we joined with each other and were not afraid. We joined to embody the meaning behind the lamp, water and mirror. We joined, and became purer versions of ourselves for joining together. She ends the stanza with natarseedeem, the opposite of meetarsand, which is another kind of rhyme that she uses heavily throughout her poem, and serves to convey a reversal in meaning and in the pattern of sound.  In the following stanzas she rhymes the beginning of the sentences and lines with repetition, “sokhan az…” and continues the pattern of juxtaposition.

va sameemeeyaté tan hāman, dar tarāree
va derakhsheedané oryāneemān
meslé falsé māheehā dar āb
sokhan az zendegeeyé noghreyeeyé āvāzeest
ke séhar gāhān favareyé koochak meekhānad

and the intimacy of our bodies,
and the glow of our nakedness
like fish scales in the water.
I am talking about the silvery life of a song
which a small fountain sings at dawn.

The visual rhyme in the next stanza which goes, “and the intimacy of our bodies, the glow of our nakedness, like fish scales in the water. I am talking about the silvery life of a song which a small fountain sings at dawn.” References the lamp, water and mirror of the previous stanza and reaffirms her meaning of light, clarity and reflection – the “glow of our nakedness” as a lamp and as a clear view of someone, “like fish scales in the water” reflecting light and brightness and cleansing. Forough rhymes our understanding of water and fire as both being purifying. “I am talking about the silvery life of a song which a small fountain sings at dawn,” functions as another switchback in the climb of the poem. The visual of silvery life and a small fountain at dawn draw on the “fish scales in water,” and the “glow of our nakedness.”  With the internal, reversed rhyme in each line Forough changes the pace of the sounds, increasing the rhythm. In fact, every stanza that Forough begins with “sokhan az…” is meant to bring you closer to her own perspective. In this subtle way the poem is actually an argument and a testimony, and you might think the sensual parts of the poem disguise this but what if the sensuality is integral to the argument? This stanza might visually reference a kind of climax, with the fountain singing, but it is not the climax of the poem, it is the climb.  And I mean that it’s the physical set-up of sex acts for a climax or orgasm.

mā dar ān jangalé sabz seeyāl
shaby az khargooshān vahshee
va dar ān daryāyé moztarebé khoonsard
az sadafhāyé por az morvāreed
va dar ān koohé ghareeb fath
az oghāban javān porseedeem
ké ché bāyad kard 

we asked wild rabbits one night
in that green flowing forest
and shells full of pearls
in that turbulent cold blooded sea
and the young eagles
on that strange overwhelming mountain
what should be done.

The climax of the poem is in the next stanza, which ends “ke che bayad kard.” It’s the question of what should be done.  The question is a “strange overwhelming mountain” which in my opinion is a reference to orgasm. Forough conveys the race to orgasm, of sex with, “we asked wild rabbits one night in that green flowing forest and shells full of pearls in that turbulent cold blooded sea and the young eagles on that strange mountain what should be done.” The rabbits, pearls and the word “turbulent” to describe a sea convey sex. The “flowing” or “liquid” forest and “cold blooded” or troubled sea convey the plunge and draw of having sex. The young eagles are a reference to flying, of bringing you higher, bringing you on to that strange overwhelming mountain. Also, the act of going around to all these places, the forest, the sea, the mountain, and the exploring of these places are all symbolic of the body, sex and of the climb towards orgasm. This stanza describes the orgasm, the physical part of the love between two people that the whole poem is about, the climax of the poem visually and rhythmically, and the culmination of their love for each other in the question – what is to be done?

It's awesome, it’s great, I love it. What a perfect question to describe that feeling after an orgasm. A question that flings us off the edge of a mountain, which there is no real answer to. Orgasm is the answer to the question of sex, the question that sex inherently asks. Society perpetuates this ending of happily ever after – to describe life after marriage, life after falling in love, life after the birth of a child. But reality knows, that is not true. There is no such thing as endings in real life, it continues independent of who dies and who is born.  That’s nature, and this stanza purposefully uses a return-to-nature vibe. “We asked the young eagles what to do.”

hamé meedānand
hamé meedānand
mā dar khābé sard ō saketé seemorghān, rah yāfté-eem
mā hagheeghat rā dar bāghché paydā kardeem
dar negahé sharmāgeen golee gomnām
va baghā rā dar yek lahzé nāmahdood
kê dō khorsheed bé ham kheeré shodand

Everyone knows,
everyone knows
we have found our way
Into the cold, quiet dream of phoenixes:
we found truth in the garden
In the embarrassed look of a nameless flower,
and we found permanence
In an endless moment
when two suns stared at each other.

Forough masterfully steers us back (not quite full circle yet) with the beginning of the stanza, “hame meedanand, hame meedanand.” She uses this repetition and established rhyme scheme of the poem to break with the pattern for the rest of the stanza, using only alliteration and hidden rhyme.

Forough is proud of her love, of her understanding of truth and what she has learned about herself. I’ve mentioned love several times – this poem is clearly about love and the act of love, but Forough herself never uses the word love, and she uses the word cold – sarde – to describe a place where she is. The cold sullen window, the cold quiet dream of phoenixes. “We found our way into the cold quiet dream of phoenixes.” I think the cold quiet dream of phoenixes means honesty.

“We found truth in the garden in the embarrassed look of a nameless flower.” Honesty is quite embarrassing, and honesty is again something that people fear. The truth that they found is not each other, it’s not love even though it is through an act of love (sex) that they found it. The truth she references is honesty, which is freeing and righteous. The garden is oneself. Exploring the garden, conquering the garden, is about discovering yourself and the life altering, society-averse, fundamental truth that you find when exploring yourself and learning to love yourself is honesty. And I think it’s something that Iranians have a lot of trouble with, because it’s not polite to be honest. The garden as a metaphor for oneself is quite interesting to me, because sexuality is something you can explore by yourself but organized religion would have you believe it’s something you need someone of the opposite sex to understand. Just like how some people argue that gay women can’t *actually* have sex.  Exploring the garden as one would explore themselves is also not something organized religions would endorse because that leads to critical thinking and eventually diverging from societal expectations instead of conforming to and embracing societal ideals, put forth and promoted by organized religion. Organized religion needs the participation and enforcement of societal ideals of behavior in order to continue existing. Self-actualization does not exist in today’s organized religions. As soon as you understand that you can respectfully disagree with something, the religion has lost you because organized religion does not endorse respectful disagreement – they need people to fear an other or to fear alienation (i.e. damnation) to keep them devoted to the religion.

“We found immortality in an endless moment when two suns stared at each other,” To me this, “immortality in an endless moment,” again describes sex because I think sex is one of the only moments in life where we feel truly immortal. Its fundamental purpose, regardless of one’s own personal goals, is pregnancy – which is really the only way in which any of us are immortal, through our genetics as pieces of us living on in the next generation. This is emphasized in the reference and visual of the phoenix as a cyclical creature of rebirth. “When two suns stared at each other” definitely is an expression of equality, and I think she means that when a woman is in a voluntary sexual relationship, as a mistress perhaps, or even just a girlfriend, the two people are equals because she has the freedom to come or go. From a female perspective, when people are not bound to each other, they are more likely to see each other as equals instead of obligations.

Forough’s seventh stanza conveys a similar theme as in the first stanza – between “everyone knows, everyone knows” and “like a short spear will carry news of us to the city.” Everyone knows is a reference to the news of them that has made it to the city, and this excellent cyclical way the poem ties itself together towards the end is a sign of Forough’s skillful storytelling.

You might think that this is an excellent ending to the poem, two suns staring at each other. It’s romantic and beautiful and if you wanted to see this poem as only a love poem, it works. It’s cyclical and ends in a visual and metaphorical pairing. But this is not the end of the poem and I think to leave off the rest censors and fundamentally alters Forough’s message and her artistry. As simply a love poem, the power, perspective and argument of this poem is truncated, so here is the rest.

I am not talking about timorous whispering
In the dark.
I am talking about daytime and open windows
and fresh air and a stove in which useless things burn
and land which is fertile
with a different planting
and birth and evolution and pride.
I am talking about our loving hands
which have built across nights a bridge
of the message of perfume
and light and breeze.
come to the meadow
to the grand meadow
and call me, from behind the breaths
of silk-tasseled acacias
just like the deer calls its mate.

The curtains are full of hidden anger
and innocent doves
look to the ground
from their towering white height.

I love that line – “I am not talking about timorous whispering in the dark,” because it really communicates what Forough hints at in earlier parts of the poem; that she is not ashamed and refuses to act ashamed for the sake of others. It really emphasizes honesty to me, as I interpreted in my reading of earlier stanzas.  Her repetition and visual rhythm of the previous stanzas are preserved in this last portion, but it is also slightly different.

Although the poem does read well without it, this last part really contains the meat of feminist emancipation, and without it one might read the poem superficially as encouraging people towards relationships. What is often called “love poetry.”

Ending the poem with, “In an endless moment when two suns stared at each other,” is like a bus that drops you off at a spot where you can see where you first got on, maybe it’s actually a couple blocks away and you got off a stop too early, but it’s close enough that you inherently sense that the bus trip is a loop. Reading this last portion of the poem though, definitely takes you on a full complete journey because even if the poem leaves you in the same place now, your perception of an idea has been altered, something has changed. Ending with the two suns didn’t do that. Even the placement of the two stanzas that begin “everyone knows, everyone knows…” becomes a step that you take into the poem and out of the poem.

“I am talking about daytime and open windows” again is an outright reference to “that cold sullen window” of the second stanza. “And fresh air and a stove in which useless things burn” I love this line – what is she talking about by comparing these two things? Fresh air and a stove in which useless things burn. (This is exactly why I think these last stanzas reinforce my initial reading of the poem – which was not a complete version.) What useless things would give us fresh air with their burning – their destruction – if not the societal tools of our oppression, like patriarchy or religion perhaps?  Doesn’t this remind us of the images we’ve seen of women burning their hijabs in the street? A genuine yearning is contained in the words, “fresh air and a stove in which useless things burn.”

And land which is fertile with a different planting - I think the land here is women, body and mind. What do we think the different planting is? Instead of babies, which is traditionally what women are “meant” to be fertile for, what else could it be? Of the many things that grow inside of us, imagination is the one that always seems to freak people out. In Iranian culture, women have always been forces of creation, not just of other humans and whole future generations, but of power, survival, intuition, and imagination. Islam in Iran limits women’s rights, until their role in society is basically limited to reproduction and gender slavery.  And birth and evolution and pride – this is absolutely a reference to women’s rights. Pride is apparent in the following lines: “I am talking about our loving hands which have built across nights a bridge of the message of perfume and light and breeze.” This imagery immediately reminds us of the lamp, water and mirror – a visual rhyme, but she’s switched them into different senses that still impart clarity.

“Come to the meadow, to the grand meadow” references the garden, but she calls it a meadow in this line and in the following, “and call me from behind the breaths of silk tasseled acacias just like the deer calls its mate” as a return to nature, purity. In a way, I feel like she is slyly indicating that living as religion dictates is not natural but a perversion by somewhat explicitly saying her own sexual desires this way (just like a deer calls its mate).

The next line absolutely slays because it is so poignant, so honest, and so oblique. It’s concise but conveys a wealth of information at the same time. It’s like a code that maybe not everyone will understand immediately: “The curtains are full of hidden anger.” But I do, because I recognize that anger in me. “The curtains are full of hidden anger” is us, women and men. We are the curtains, and we are full of hidden anger. Iranian culture is a veiled society, regardless of gender. If you don’t wear a physical veil, you have a mental one. In my life, I have rarely met anyone who understood how much anger I carried in me who was not an Iranian woman.  Iranian women have a very complex relationship with anger because I think we all get so used to it that almost all of our other emotions are sustained by anger. It’s become a part of us, a part of who we are. I think this must be similar for many other people who were raised in very repressed societies and cultures, anyone who became very aware of those restrictions on them in adolescence, and I’m sure this line reaches out to them as well. “The curtains are full of hidden anger” is a return to the cold sullen window of the second stanza, where Forough began her journey.  But with the rest of the stanza, “And innocent doves look to the ground from their towering white height.” She conveys a sense of something else, like captivity.

The curtains are full of hidden anger
And innocent doves
look to the ground
from their towering white height.

With this final stanza, we are back in the room we started in – and it also seems like we never actually left. Forough took us to all these open places, through a window, into a garden, a forest, a sea, a mountain, a meadow - only to remind us in the most jarring way that we are actually trapped inside. Window treatments, what a classic metaphor to allude to the domicile of women. In an American reading of this poem, I think this would be a reference to the Cult of Domesticity, which was a prevailing value system for upper and middle class, white Anglo Saxon women in the Northeast of the US during the last 200 years, which emphasized defining what was feminine by measurement of four cardinal virtues: piety, purity, domesticity and submissiveness. All of this is a very western Christian thing but I think it has a lot of parallels because it is inherently rooted in organized religion, like Islam, and many of the laws surrounding women’s lack of rights in Iran at this time are concentrated on making women behave in the same way.

The way Forough ends this poem is a really powerful statement, if not quite the hopeful one with two suns staring at each other. If two suns staring at each other is about equality, curtains full of hidden anger is decidedly speaking about inequality, emphasized with the juxtaposition of the innocent doves flying freely. Their towering white height conveys something unattainable, which I think we can assume is freedom due to the bird themes throughout the poem. I believe the birds are a symbol of freedom because they represent the ability to just go, across cultures, “as the crow flies.” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” as Maya Angelou wrote. In fathé bāgh, we return again and again to that cold sullen window of the second stanza. We are reminded of it every few lines, and our journey begins and ends with it. But what saddens me here is that by ending the poem in this way, Forough seems to be saying that freedom and equality can be found in romantic love but only in the brief experiences it brings you – it’s not real freedom and genuine honesty when there’s only one person you can feel that with. It makes me wonder what it means to only feel free with a certain person. It’s almost not so much that you would love them for being themselves but more like you love the way you feel when you’re with them. Is there a difference? One seems more selfish than the other, but I wonder how my own emotional bias influences this evaluation. It might not be very much fun to be the other person if they are essentially being used. If the relationship is always an escape for one person but not the other, isn’t that kind of unsustainable and tiring even if the roles occasionally switch?

Even in the two lines, “I am not talking about timorous whispering in the dark. I am talking about daytime and open windows and fresh air and a stove in which useless things burn” there’s actually nothing to imply that we are out of the room or outside. She gives us the impression of being outside but after re-reading a number of times, I think we stay inside the whole time. Isn’t that strangely tragic?

“The curtains are full of hidden anger” is an acknowledgment that even though she can experience joy and honesty and feeling free with another person, it hasn’t actually changed her life much. Curtains bracket a window – what does it mean that curtains full of anger bracket the (her?) view to the garden and the world beyond?

I love the internal rhyme scheme and repetition of fathé bāgh. The pattern of sounds is beautiful, it’s fluid and tells a story that brings you back to the beginning naturally. I enjoy the way Forough juxtaposes opposites visually, her brand of contrary rhyming, and this device almost functions like an argument, like she’s arguing something in the poem. I think we could talk a lot more about what exactly that is from different people’s perspectives.  

I don’t believe this poem is about infidelity exactly or even explicitly anti-marriage. She’s talking about herself and about her own experience. She makes it very obvious and sometimes very vague but the main meaning behind what she says and how she says it is that she may be doing something that will result in ostracism but she is not living her life for anyone but herself. She’s alone in this poem, even when she’s with a lover. She speaks from her own perspective, even when she says “we”.  She is the conqueror and she is the garden and what she has conquered is her fear. This poem is about her victory, her truth and her self-discovery. 

Oct 12, 2022

The Stump King of Purgatory Chasm


Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, Massachusetts

Purgatory Chasm is a geologically rare formation in granite bedrock with abrupt precipices and boulder caves. There’s a lot of speculation about how it was formed but the most popular is that glacial meltwater ripped through the bedrock after an ice dam broke at the end of the last ice age, forming a long rift in what used to be solid granite. These days, about 14,000 years later, it’s a slightly treacherous hiking and rock climbing location.

My boyfriend, Matt, and I went hiking here in October. At some point, we were joined in the chasm by a girl scout troop and a few families with small children, whose parents gripped their hands or parts of their clothing tightly while eyeing the giant and precarious rocks with expressions that said, why did we decide to come here? I also saw three people twist their ankles. Clambering through the chasm was like navigating an obstacle course, particularly when we were overrun by brightly dressed ten-year-old girls who seemed to be racing each other. 

As you enter the chasm, the sounds of the surrounding forest gradually drop away. The sound of wind passing through the treetops is almost completely muffled and you can only hear birds if they are directly above you inside the chasm. However, if a person who is 10 or more meters away speaks quietly to someone directly next to them, you can hear exactly what they say. If the speaker stands on a ledge higher up in the chasm, their voice projects farther and bounces on the surrounding rock walls.

There was a kid sitting on a stump, high up along one of the levels of crags between the two split granite pieces of bedrock. He kept on shouting, “I’m KING of the STUMP,” and he had somehow found the one stump to perch on that was magically situated to amplify and project his voice all over the chasm. 

His voice echoed very clearly, so before we could actually see him or tell where his voice was coming from, we could hear him - a boy’s voice proclaiming his rule of a very modest territory. We reached a point that was flat enough to look up and see this kid, who was indeed sitting on a large stump and would not leave, even though his parents and siblings were essentially begging him to from different ledges above him. The kid just kept going, “I’m king of the stump! I’m king of this stump! I’m the king of this stump!” Eventually he felt the need to embellish and clarify at the same time: “I’m king of this stump, BUT NO other stumps! I’m king of only this stump! I’m the king of this stump and just this stump! I am the STUMP KING! But not of all stumps, I’m king of only this stump!” 

“Someone should shut that kid up,” Matt muttered.

“How dare you speak so treasonously of our beloved stump king!?” I replied. As soon as I spotted the stump king on his stump the whole focus of the hike changed for me and I stayed back to observe how long this kid could last as the stump king. At first, Matt was greatly disturbed by the stump king’s constant proclamations, and mostly fantasized about how he could be removed from the stump and silenced while hiking on without me, but eventually he came back and observed too. 

“Not that stump over there, and not that one either, THIS stump. I’m KING of this stump!”

When his father tried to get him to give someone else a turn on the stump, “I AM THE KING OF THIS STUMP AND I AM NEVER LEAVING IT,” - shouted out over the chasm, and the head of another little boy who was just big enough to peak over the edge of the stump with his hands braced on the side.

He also seemed to attract a crowd of hecklers and supporters. At some point, an unseen woman shouted back, “Hey stump king, where’s your queen?”

The kid, without much hesitation, answered, “I killed her!”

This seemed to dismay his parents, who’d been hovering around the ledge he’d climbed down to get to the stump. The boy’s mother shouted that he should have just said there was no queen, he didn’t have one yet, but this only prompted the boy to shout back that there was definitely a queen - or had definitely been one, and he had definitely killed her because she tried to take over his stump. Then his mother shouted that everyone thought he was a weirdo now because he was claiming to have killed someone and the police were going to come and arrest him. The boy then decided to alter his narrative and shouted, “Ok, so there was definitely a queen and she died. It was very tragic. But I definitely didn’t kill her. And I’m kind of happy she’s not around. The stump is, too.” 

There was a couple wearing sweatshirts that said King and Queen, respectively, and they kept on trying to find the right spot to take engagement or newly-wed photos. While listening to the Stump King’s family trying to talk him down from the stump, we watched them attempt a pose in one spot until the girl scouts came swarming back on their second trip through the chasm, and the couple was forced to grip their tripod in horror as their spot was completely overrun by a stampede of varying shades of pink.  Matt leaned over to me and said, “They should take their picture on that stump.” 

We came for the hike but stayed for the Stump King.

Oct 22, 2018

"Look, mom - no hands!"

I had this dream recently where I cut off someone's hand and kept it. I hadn't cut off his hand to be malicious, but I also didn't really like him. Who was he, you ask? I have no idea, didn’t recognize him. He was your standard unkempt 20-something.
 I knocked on his door to give him something and he didn't even bother opening the door all the way, he just opened it a crack and stuck his hand out, so I really quickly cut it off with an eight-inch blade that conveniently appeared in my right hand. And then I ran away with his hand, laughing.
And then some older man I was kind of friends with (I guess?) was trying to gently warn me, saying, “Parisa, no one’s gonna like that you did that.” And I was like, “Nah, don’t worry, it’s nbd.” And he was like, “What?” and I said, “Don’t worry, it’s gonna be no big deal.”
Then at some unidentified public space, random people came up to me, acting like coy high school girls, and were like, "Did you really cut off so-and-so's hand? Did you seriously do that?" and I was like  "Yeah, wanna see the hand? It's right here, wanna see?" and they were like "Um, why did you do that?" and I was like "Various, completely valid reasons, don't worry, it’s gonna benefit all of us. In the long run. Ultimately." And they were like, "Oh, ok then." And I was like, “Yeah, I did it for all of us.” And they were like, “Oh, thanks then,” and went away.
Then there was this other guy, who I kind of felt was in some position of authority above me, who was trying to initiate a conversation about the hand without actually saying anything. He kept sayings things like, "Well you know, obviously it wasn't good, cutting off his hand, but it's over and done now, and it's not gonna happen again, we know that. You're not in trouble or anything, but you know, obviously it's not gonna happen again." And I was like, "It's not gonna happen again?" to myself, thinking, what does that mean? Does that mean it can't happen again? Does that mean that people aren't gonna let it happen again? Who? Who's not gonna let it happen again?
‘Cause right away, it occurred to me that he’d had two hands, so technically it could happen at least one more time.  
So then I found myself back in front of the guy's door again, and I knocked and was like "It's me!" and the guy was like, "You cut off my hand last time!" and I was like, "Yeah, but I forgot to give you the thing I meant to!" and he was like "Oh, alright," through the door and then he opened it a bit and stuck his remaining hand out, which I promptly sliced off at the wrist and ran away with. No one stopped me.
I don't know why but I felt fully justified cutting off the first one and then was like, “This time for fun!” cutting off the second one. More than that, I felt like it was a no-brainer, nobody would care and it's not like I would get in trouble for it.
When people learned that I had made off with his second hand, all his support sort of melted away in a "fool him twice, shame on him" way, and people stopped being concerned about him missing one hand when he was missing two. It went from being, “This man is missing a hand!” to “This man has no hands and only the people closest to him care, nbd.”  And I still had both his hands, not in plastic bags, but with these strange metal caps on the stumps where I had cut them from his arms. I had cut them at different points so one had slightly more wrist than the other. And this time when the man of authority came to talk to me, he was like, "Yeahhh, so maybe don't go back to his door again, ok? It's not, it's not good." And I was like, "But why? it's not like I'm gonna cut off his hand again.... I got them both, HAHAHA." And he grudgingly gave me a few chuckles but then tried to be serious and was like, "It makes people uncomfortable, so just give him some space." And I was like, "What if I need to give him his hands back?" And the man was like, "No, don't do that." And I was like, "Why? Why would I have kept these hands and carried them around if not to give back to him at some point?" And he was like, "Nah, I don't think he needs them anymore." And I was like, "What? The guy has no hands. How can he not need his hands back?" And he was like, "Honestly, there's been talk of him getting replacements.You know, upgrades." And I was like, "How can you upgrade from the appendage you were born with? Doesn't he care about having his hands back?" And the man was like, "I don't know, he seems to be doing pretty well."
"How do you know he's doing well? How do you know he doesn't want his hands back?" I asked.
And he was like, "Well, I talked with him a little and he seemed alright."
"Well, can I talk to him?"
"I don't think that's a good idea."
"But I gotta ask him if he wants his hands back."
"Nah, he won't want those hands back."
"Why not?"
"They're gonna attach better ones, like ones made of metal, in the future."
"How far in the future?"
"Uhhhh, not sure exactly."
"Well, wouldn't it be better to reattach his hands in the meantime?"
"Probably not, he says he never really used them for anything before anyway. So don't worry, Parisa, you can keep those hands."
"I don't want them."
"Then why'd you take them in the first place?"
"Cause I felt like he needed it, he deserved to lose a hand for no reason."
"Why'd you take the other one then?"
"Taking the first one was so easy. I didn't think he would even answer the door to me the second time, but he did!"
Then I spent some time in the dream observing from afar how the guy with no hands had all these young women around to do things for him, and he was basically fine without hands, somehow no less functional than he normally was. I had to hand it to him, he adjusted well, which I was only a little disturbed by.

On one hand, I felt fully justified in cutting off the first one, and for some reason it made cutting off the second one basically a foregone conclusion. Like, if you buy one cannoli and they give you a box for it that can fit another one, you might as well buy two cannoli. Similar to how one would say to one’s self, “I deserve this,” about indulging in a dessert, I said to myself, “He deserves this,” about losing his hand. Imagining him trying to do things with no hands made me giggle and had me sort of riding on a mental high in my dream. Even after I woke up and realized I had overslept by 50 minutes, I still felt like I was on the verge of laughing. I had to look at myself in the bathroom mirror and say, "Losing a hand is a serious thing," to sober up, but then I thought of him trying to handle the doorknob of his front door after losing the second hand and I just dissolved into hysterical giggles.
On the other hand, I was struck by how he could just not care so much about his hands and I couldn't understand not wanting his hands back when it was possible to get them back. I just couldn't understand it, and I felt like I, the person who took his hands and now had four, had a deeper understanding of what a life with no hands would mean than him, the person who, suddenly and irrationally, had no hands - and was fine without them!
And since he didn’t want his hands back, I was stuck carting around two extra hands that I didn’t need and couldn’t really use for anything. And they were kind of heavy.
Why did my dream-self cut off his hands, you ask? No idea, if I had to pick something, it was probably the way he dressed. He went around with this fleece throw blanket draped over him and he always had to use one hand to keep the blanket around him, so my dream-thought process was probably like this: If he loses a hand, that blanket will fall off and he’ll have to dress differently.  He should be aware that the sight of him constantly readjusting that blanket is both distracting and provoking. It was irresponsible of him to go around wearing a blanket like that, temptingly, almost taunting the rest of us to cut off his hand just to teach him a lesson. He had it coming.