What I was missing here – six poems by Jila Mossaed

© Gazelle Bastan

What I was missing here

All night it snowed
love turned white
I trampled love

The forest mews
tiny scraps of light
sway in the trees

Love covers the wound
the wanting, the marks on the soul

We sing out loud
I and the unseen
I and the wordless


Everything was white when I
awoke and sat at the edge of my bed
I folded up my dreams
and tucked them under the pillow

What day are we today?
Sometimes I forget to breathe
Outside, day jobbers are queued up
drinking Coca-Cola
and eating cold bread
leaning against a wall
in silence

Sometimes they queue up in my dreams
to tell their stories
© Gazelle Bastan
I invited the tree in
for a cup of tea
we both suffer when the wind is hard
we do not like the darkness

The tree is older than me
we have so much to tell each other

Sometimes I sit beneath it
and press my back
against its trunk
I hear it singing
and wrap myself
with its dancing branches

Ah you, beautiful aspen
hold on to my secrets
when I’ll be no more


It was your ashes
that remembered me
that night

I sensed
how you wanted to be close

I closed the doors
but the smell of wet earth
spread itself through the room

I knew that you were dead
even as I slept

That morning
wrapped in your housecoat
I so wanted you to see me
© Gazelle Bastan
They come in the night
sometimes so numerous
they trample each other

The sheet twists itself into shadow
the walls crumble in silence

The spring in the corner
is both bed and mirror
It swallows the dust

I rise from each corner
People bewitched shut their eyes
they will not see that
paradise has no door
© Gazelle Bastan
A sliver from a tree
a sprig of sunlight
a glass filled with earth

Love stretches
its veil over me

I breathe through my eyelids
death’s pockets
are weighted with stones
and I am wearing a dress made of glass
Where is my home? 
work in progress © Gazelle Bastan
Note on the poems and images

Poems originally published in Swedish in Vad jag saknades här (Stockholm: Bokförlaget Lejd, 2018). English by Nicola Vulpe.

Images from the series philosophy of a tree by Gazelle Bastan (2022)

Jila Mossaed was born in Iran but left in 1986, finding refuge in Sweden. Her poetry has been translated into Dutch, Greek and French, and has been honoured with numerous prizes in Sweden and France. She was 17 when she published her first poems in Iranian literary journals. She went on to study in the United States, then write for Iranian radio and television. Her first poetry collection, The Fleet Gazelles of Memory, appeared in 1986, the same year she left Iran with her two children to seek refuge in Sweden, where she has lived since. In 1997, Mossaed published her first collection in Swedish, The Moon and the Eternal Cow. She has received numerous literary prizes in Sweden, and in 2018 she was elected to chair 15 of the Swedish Academy. Her poetry has been translated into Dutch, Greek and French, and her work has been honoured in France with both the Prix Vénus Khoury-Ghata and the Prix Max Jacob.

Nicola Vulpe is a Canadian poet. Dismayed that Jila Mossaed was unknown to the English-speaking world, in 2020 he set out to translate this extraordinary poet and introduce her to readers of English. He has published a novella, The Extraordinary Event of Pia H., who turned to admire a chicken on the Plaza Mayor, and four collections of poetry, including Insult to the Brain and Through the Waspmouth I Drew You, which both received the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry.

Gazelle Bastan is a Montréal-based multidisciplinary artist who has presented her work in group exhibitions in Tehran, Arak, Damascus and Montréal.  She learned calligraphy at an early age in Iran and developed a deep interest in gilding and illumination techniques. She received her master’s degree in Art Research from Tehran University in 2013. While earning her BFA at Concordia University, she explored abstraction through painting, print and photography, focusing on the concepts of patterns and repetition. To follow Gazelle Bastan’s work, please visit her website, Instagram page (@gazellebstn) and Vimeo.