Black Blood


Iranian Reader
by Iranian Reader

Black Blood

Those of us who were around in the 1980s are reliving those days. I go back to the summer of 1986, when I went to Iran after my cousin Marjan was released from Evin.

When Marjan disappeared from a phone booth on Takhte Tavoos Avenue my mother and uncle were still in Iran. My aunt, Marjan’s mother, had help from her sister and brother looking for her. In the year since they located her in Evin, my mother escaped though Turkey and my uncle smuggled his boys out the country. My aunt was left alone, caring for their mother and visiting Marjan at Evin. Luckily my grandmother lived to see Marjan’s release, but died before I went to Tehran. In her last pictures she had a wide-eyed look with terror in her eyes.

My other grandmother’s sister was still alive that summer and after having suffered a stroke and losing her speech she had the same wild look in her eyes. She sat wringing her hands and repeating the only thing she could say: “Dadeh shodeh.” It was a meaningless phrase but we knew what she meant. She meant that dark cloud that rained pain and agony on us.

What I’m reliving now is that unsheltered feeling of huddling together under the black rain, giving each other pitiful smiles of courage.

Marjan had bad headaches after Evin. A couple of times I gave her a massage. I remember feeling her skinny back with the two tight ropes of muscle climbing up the sides of her spine and inserting at the base of her skull. I followed the tension spreading through the trapezius, pouring back into the shoulder girdle. I traced the ta’zir scars on her feet, the tightening of the skin that pulled the toes a little inward as in making a claw. I didn’t so much massage her as stroke her. I supported the weight of her head and upper back and just ran my fingers over the tangles of the various soft tissue.

I had a kinesiology teacher who used to say that the study of fascia to the body is what geology is to earth. Fascia is the connective tissue that keeps every part of the body separated yet connected. It is layers of body memory. Like a blind person whose fingertips read the Braille of the body, I absorbed something of these memories. My fingertips picked up things that neither Marjan nor I could put into words. Friends who had nursed her infected feet, with whom she had huddled under the black rain in Evin, were still there. When I looked at my hands they seemed black.

The day Marjan was released in Iran was night time where I was staying with my friend Fariba on the East Coast. My mother called me from California as soon as she heard the news and by the time the phone was passed on to me Fariba’s entire household had been woken up. It was good news for a change. And I was so happy that I felt like falling at Khomeini’s feet, kissing his hands and thanking him. I felt my hatred as gratitude.

Marjan is a superb artist. She has always been an excellent painter but when a few years ago she took up sculpture it was as if she had done that all her life. My most favorite works of her are two paintings that she never finished. They are pictures of women in black veils, bent over graves that are not clear whether they have been dug out or dug up. A strange light emanates from the upturned earth. Those were the days before Khavaran. We had come across such upturned lots visiting my grandmother’s grave at Beheshte Zahra, and the grave of the husband of a prison-mate of Marjan’s. I don’t know why she never finished those paintings.

After massaging Marjan my hands were colored with the black blood that was the memory of what had been done to her and what she had seen at Evin.

With the death of Neda Agha Soltan I watched that black blood turn red again. And I don’t feel my hatred as gratitude any more.

I read the poem “Satanic Faces of Islam” on this site a few days ago and could not bring myself to leave a comment—no one else really did either. It reminded me of a noheh that the Jebhe-Melli father of a friend of mine had told me hearing at Komiteh Markazi. How about this satanic verse as background to the beating of a woman in her child’s presence:

آسمان خون گریه کن فرزند زهرا می زنند

Hardly anyone commented after the third episode of Shazdeh’s “Hotel Evin” either. I think those memories have reverted back to being lived again. You can’t comment on them.

And then there is Babak Dad’s revelations of what is happening now. Satanic? I don’t know. I can’t think of any word to call it. I can only say this—for now, for thirty years:

What have you done?


Recently by Iranian ReaderCommentsDate
What have you done?
Aug 25, 2009
Iran, A Reflection: Shot in the heart
Jul 15, 2009
Allaho Akbar
Jan 12, 2009
more from Iranian Reader