189 Steps


189 Steps
by Majid Naficy

This poem first published in the brochure of an international conference of poets called "Resilience of the Human Spirit" held in the Guthrie Centre, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 16-17 September 2006. [original Persian]

I trip down 189 steps [1]
To wash my grey eyes in the blue sea,
And along with green ivy
Reaching out through fences,
I long to touch a woman
Who carries with each step
The sense of my loss.
One: my wife executed in Tehran
Two: my mate leaving me in Venice
Three: my son living between two homes
Four: my sister giving birth in prison
Five: my brother buried in an unmarked grave
Six: my failing eyesight
Seven: my sorrows of exile
When I go from top to bottom
I hitch myself to the clouds
Which sometimes cover the sun
And sometimes leave it naked
When I go up from the bottom
I see my naked suns
Behind dancing women.
At each landing
There are bottles of water
And a black cat is peeking out
From behind a white towel.
I surrender myself
To this sweet fatigue.
I go up ten times
And go down ten times
And at the last steps
Along with my mother's gaze
I dance down from Masuleh's rooftops
And free myself in the Caspian sea.
One: the elegy for my wife
Two: the mate I have met
Three: the roots my son found
Four: the books I have written
Five: the years I ran in the Marathon
Six: the day I wore cap and gown
Seven: the home I have found.
189 steps to joy
189 steps to unity
189 steps to my sacrificial altar.
Oh, magic number,
I pray to you
And I wash myself within you.
I am now a Horufi mystic [2]
And I see Nasimi [3]
alive in me.
I stand at the top of stairs
And I raise both of my arms
Looking at the blue sky.
A woman arrives
In blue sweatpants
And tennis shoes.
I show her the altar
And chanting, I retreat.

December 6, 1994
[original Persian]

[1] In Santa Monica, California, near Pacific Coast Highway there are 189 stairs between two small streets on two levels where people `do stairs`.

[2] A member of a mystical sect who believed in the sanctity of numbers and letters in the fifteenth century, Iran.

[3] Imad-Dodin Nasimi (1369-1417) An Azari poet who was executed for his Horufi beliefs.


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Dear Majid Naficy, This

by sara2 on

Dear Majid Naficy,

This is a beautiful poem that will stay with me for a long time. Thank you!


Azadeh Azad

Absolutely breathtaking

by Azadeh Azad on


One of the most beautiful poems I've read in recent months. And it is true that it's more powerful in Persian. You have the heart of a Horufi mystic and the mind of an angel, Majid. Thank you for being among us. I love you.



Even more powerful in Persian

by Anonymous-today (not verified) on

The English version is brave but the sentiments and imagery are more powerful in Persian, which is what the poet first put them in. The interplay of the images (which reminds me a lot of Shamlou) is simply more sensuous and ever reaching in Persian. Excellent in both languages.


The red carpet of my shoulder.

by Francesco Sinibaldi (not verified) on

Early in the
morning, when
gloomy canticles
rejoice in the
sound of the quietness,
I hear a scrupulous
voice on the sun
of a summer, while
a sadness delights
and discovers a care.

Francesco Sinibaldi



by Abarmard on

Thanks, I think this would be even more powerful in Persian


Wow Mr Naficy, beautiful.

by Tahirih on

On March 17th this year which is a little over a month ago I did climb steps ,lots of them and with every step , I was getting closer to free my sorrowful soul of the burden that I was carrying for years .This really happend to me ,not in a dream ,but in real life.I have been there before ,but this time I have decided to empty my sorrows by the time I was at top of the stairs. I cried all the way to the top and at each landing ,I left behind a small part of my pain. when I reached at the top I was free.

I am still in shock and disbelief as how you explained my experience in your poem!!Someone once told me that we are all connected at some level and this co-incidence is a witness to her theory.Or was it really a coincidence?

I really enjoyed it and will copy it.

best wishes for you,




by WOW (not verified) on

a perfect poem

thank you for sharing

Azarin Sadegh


by Azarin Sadegh on

Dear Majid Naficy, I loved this poem and all its images. Now, I am going to read it 189 more times, going from top to bottom or from bottom to top, to remember the beauty of each line, or to catch the heat of those hidden suns behind the clouds of your sorrow, and to seize a glimpse of the dancing women of your dreams.

Lovely, lovely poem!