Thirty-five years ago seems like the distant past but not when memories linger, not only in the mind but the heart. At certain times of the year, especially around the celebration of Valentine’s Day I am reminded of a great love I left behind in the legendary city of Isfahan when I lived in Iran.
Isfahan, the very name conjures up the Arabian Nights and the greatness of the ancient Persian Empire. Rulers and dynasties left their imprint on old stones transforming them into palaces, mosques, minarets, madrasehs (schools), gardens and bazaars with names that evoke the grandeur of the East and Shah Abbas one of its greatest rulers.
Names like the Maidan-i-Shah (the Royal Place), Masjid-i-Jam (the Friday Mosque), Chihil Sutun (Pavilion of Forty Columns), Bagh-i-Bolbol ( The Garden of the Nightingdale), and Ali Qapu, the glorious gate once the portal of the Shah’s palace, bewilder the imagination.I only stayed a few days to visit a friend. But that changed when I was introduced to a man I would never forget. The French have an exquisite expression that captures that moment: “le coup de foudre” lightning striking. I knew that when his green-gray eyes met mine the world shifted its axis.
We talked until the wee hours of the morning that first night and when the dawn began to clear the sky he asked if I would like to take a walk along the Zayandeh Rud, the river that could be seen a short distance from his house. We stopped on the way in a “ash-paz-khâneh”, a soup kitchen that opens up in the early morning hours for men going to work. It was still winter and the fragrance and warmth that emanated from the kitchen felt like some wondrous gift. When we reached the riverbank we took off our shoes and walked barefoot in the snow. I didn’t feel the cold, only the warmth of his being, the magic of the moment.
I left Isfahan not knowing that it would be for the last time. Although we met some time later, fate had other plans for us. He would remain the road not taken. Yet that moment in Isfahan seemed written in the stars.
…There was The Friday Mosque The Maidan-i-Shah Square Twisted lanes leading Into the old city Domed structures and façades Dressed in jeweled mosaics …There was a madrasah Nearby at the east end of the mosque And behind the West Iwan A winter hall …There also was The old bazaar filled with Fragrant spices The sound of hammers Against the copper pans The colors and flashes Of the Arabian Nights …There was The Maidan-i-Shah And the palace of Shah Abbas Where under the arches Rivulets of golden stalactites Were always in bloom …There were Curves and arabesques Bursting into space Chihil Sutun, Ali Qapu Wonders of the past Adorning the present …And then There was you And I One morning In Isfahan Walking along the river On the icy lace of the mist Clothing the cracked face Of the earth …And then There was you And the touch of your breath Against mine That eternal moment In time When your arms Wrapped me into The warmth of Your beating heart Before the rising dawn In Isfahan