An Iranian professor I know asked me
the first time we met, as he’d asked so many
students: Saheb-del – how would you say in English
Saheb-del, can you translate it? And each time
he pronounced the words his fingers tolled the air
like a bell, a benediction. Years have passed.
Saheb means master, owner, companion; del
means heart. Heart’s companion, keeper?
Heart’s host? And in those years I’ve asked
friends who in turn have asked friends
who know Urdu, Farsi, and no one has come up with
the English for Sahab-del. Is it a name
for the very thing that won’t translate? And why
don’t I remember having heard it said?
They say it of people who are hospitable, ‘godly’,
I’d say it of the professor himself. Trust him
to keep asking, us to keep failing, and if we can’t recall
its tone, tenor, with what word shall we keep faith?
About this poem
This poem, representing Iran, is part of The Written World – our collaboration with BBC radio to broadcast a poem from every single nation competing in London 2012.