Tag Archives: sleepless

Mahvash Sabet’s “Lights Out”

Mahvash Sabet is a Bahá’í prisoner of conscience currently serving an unjust 20 year sentence in Iran. Read more of her story here.

Lights Out

Weary but wakeful, feverish but still
fixed on the evasive bulb that winks on the wall,
thinking surely it’s time for lights out,
longing for darkness, for the total black-out.

Trapped in distress, caught in this bad dream,
the dust under my feet untouchable as shame,
flat on the cold ground, a span for a bed,
lying side by side, with a blanket on my head.

And the female guards shift, keeping vigil till dawn,
eyes moving everywhere, watching everyone,
sounds of the rosary, the round of muttered words,
fish lips moving, the glance of a preying bird.

Till another hour passes in friendly chat,
in soft talk of secrets or a sudden spat,
with some snoring, others wheezing
some whispering, rustling, sneezing—
filling the space with coughs and groans,
suffocated sobs, incessant moans—

You can’t see the sorrow after lights out.
I long for the dark, the total black-out.

I am not sure what breaks my heart more: the difficult circumstances of Mahvash’s life, health and incarceration or the beauty and sublimity of her poetry under such difficult circumstances! Please keep Mahvash in your hearts; she is gravely ill in prison, suffering from tuberculosis of the bone.

Please consider purchasing Mahvash Sabet’s poetry as an act of solidarity in the fight for human rights: in the US, from Amazon; in the UK, directly from the publisher.


This English edition of Lights Out is ©2013 by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, who adapted the original Persian texts into English; all rights reserved.


Filed under Poetry

This long, long night

Khanum, of what shall we speak?
Of dashed hopes, of aching limbs,
of damaged loves and broken hearts?
But please, do not bestir Yourself.
If we do not pray in words then surely
through this long, long night our silence will say it all:
of our hope for that gentle kiss to send us into the mist,
of our fear to hear the quietest of sounds floating in the dark,
of our wait for the darkest shadows to reach out before the dawn…
And as I drift now—as You drifted then—this I know,
I will never weep alone again.

In Persian, the word “Khanum” is a term of great respect when added to a woman’s name and can be roughly translated as “Lady.” It’s pronunciation is a little tricky: the opening “Kh” is like “ha” but said with a little guttural sound. All together it is pronounced “Kha-num.”

In this poem it is directed to Varaqiy-i-‘Ulyá, or, in English, the Greatest Holy Leaf, the designated title of the daughter of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith; She passed from this world in 1932, the last of Her generation. The Greatest Holy Leaf was universally known for Her purity, kindness, strength, determination, humility and Her constant service to Her Father, who said of Her, I can well inhale from thee the fragrance of My love and the sweet-smelling savour wafting from the raiment of My Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous. Be astir upon God’s Tree in conformity with thy pleasure and unloose thy tongue in praise of thy Lord amidst all mankind.

Such was Her loving nature and sense of kindness and humility that She was, in that Household, commonly addressed as “Khanum,” and was indeed, the Khanum.

Thank you for reading This long, long night. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


Filed under Poetry