selfies with a poet

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Another little boy with poems. Only this time he’s not alone. Next to him there’s a man with a little blue bird, and he, too, is selling poems. So they are colleagues of sorts. The whole thing works like this: if you buy a poem from the little boy, he will randomly pick one for you, and that will be the answer to the question that has been troubling you. If you buy a poem from the man, the little bird will do the picking.

I choose not to buy any poems. Instead I buy a ticket to the mausoleum of Hafez. It seems like the appropriate thing to do, because the poems that the little boy and the man with the little bird are selling, and also the poems that the little boy at the bus station in Tehran was selling, those were all written by Hafez, a man who lived and died in Shiraz more than six hundred years ago, and whose words still move Persian-speakers to this day.

Hafez tomb

The ticket costs 200.000 Rial for me, the foreigner. For an Iranian it would have been 30.000. I don’t know what Hafez would make of this, but I get a ticket anyway.

The mausoleum is a geometrical garden. There are high palm trees and short orange trees, and in the center there is a stone pavilion with a glass box inside. In the box, there’s a sarcophagus that is supposed to contain the bones of Hafez. Its surface is ivory-colored and smooth, and there is calligraphy all over it. Also, the sarcophagus seems a bit too long for a typical human being, so maybe Hafez was really tall, or maybe he just has lot of leg room in there.

It is late, and night has fallen upon Shiraz. Families with little children have come to see the mausoleum, young people are hanging out in little groups, one middle-aged man is singing something into his cell phone. And all the others – all of them, without exception – are taking selfies in front of the sarcophagus.

people taking photos in Shiraz

It is nighttime in Shiraz, the air is cool and the city is becoming quiet. But Hafez seems to get no rest.

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