Image from Flickr via Mayu Shimizu

By Payam Feili and translated by Sarah Khalili
Brought to you by the Guernica/PEN Flash Series

I have no name. My mother went to the seas before she could call me by a name. To the seas…to a bed of seaweed…in the remains of an old ship. Poker and the Afghan Groundskeeper have not picked a name for me either.

Poker says, “It is better this way.”

The Afghan Groundskeeper says, “When the Queen’s name rises from the forests of the Mediterranean, you will have a name.”

Akhenaten says, “There is no name for you.”

Without a name and without a smile, I walk along the seashore. Here and there, silver patches of light glow on the sand around the wharf. I think about my mother. About her wet nakedness in the water. About the king fish who drink milk from her breasts and the mermaids who softly brush against her skin.

I can recognize her footprints on the sand. She has again come to town without coming to see me.

My mother is the goddess of the seas. My fetus still floats in her womb. Perhaps I am a goddess, too. My mother guides the waves and the whirlpools. She guides the ships to shore…the fogs to the sky.

I guide night-prowling strangers to my bed…

Grains of sand slither under my feet. I turn and walk towards the sea. I grow closer…closer…one step…two steps…I walk on water.

I learned this from my mother.

I see a pack of gypsies in the distance. They are singing and walking on water.

My mother learned to walk on water from them.

They fade in the orange background. I wave to them…they disappear.

Payam Feili is an Iranian poet and writer from Kermanshah, a city on the front lines of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. His first book, The Sun’s Platform, published when he was nineteen, was subject to heavy censorship by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and his work has since been banned from publication in Iran. He is the author of two novels, Tower and Pond and Son of the Cloudy Years, the short-story collection Crimson Emptiness and Talking, and a collection of poems titled Hasanak, all published outside of Iran. “Walking on Water” is from his most recent novella, I will Grow, I will Bear Fruit…Figs. In May, 2014, Feili was forced into exile in Turkey after mounting threats to him and his family.

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3 Comments on “Payam Feili: Walking on Water

  1. Beautiful text that leaves you astounded.
    I could see the words come to life, the clamour of the ebbing sea and the nostalgia the author has about his mother.

    Great acclaim to the author.
    Can’t wait to read the whole novella.

  2. There is a big hole, endless, gaping, even the emptiness isn’t there. Standing in the centre of the nothingness, is a nerve ending, or is it the beginning, a boy-man, a sliver of a man with a big brown root, deep as are his questions, as are his words. This time the mirror is empty, but it stares back anyway. So much sensitivity in one man, can anyone love that deep to reach his mouthpiece, to touch his root, to echoe his questions, to lick his tatoo. Would he allow the arms and beating African heart near his bed, on his hands, into his fishbowl.
    Payam echoes our yearning as if he is reading from inside. He has yet to birth his greatest work!

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