He stood there, motionless before the rusty microphone, not knowing what to do with his tanned, wiry hands. A haze of smoke and flowers lingered about in the air, and, in the corner of his eye, he could make out the longhair delicately rolling a joint and smacking his lips. He didn’t make too much of it at first, just as he hadn’t recognised the fellow in the corner after the gig at the boozer in town. It came on like a slow burn, like some supernal, numbing high, inching its way up his knees towards his damp navel and rumbling viscera. A spate of blurred images rushed past his eyes: shining leather trousers, a woman from the city of angels, drawn-out afternoons spun away by hot, scratched vinyl, the glow of blood-red pomegranates. It was then that it hit him: how had he come all that way, from the sleepy village of Sangsar, to be where he was at that particular moment in time? His hands moist, he awkwardly grappled with the forlorn microphone before clearing his throat with a curt cough. Once, many moons ago, an American poet had howled into the same hunk of metal before him, telling tales of loneliness, bacchanalia, and rapture; but as soon as he opened his mouth, the phantom of old Jim fizzled away into those folds of smoke, out of which appeared that of the bard of Shiraz, kindler of hearts. He could feel his knees again; with eyes closed, looking inwards towards a warm, lambent space, he remembered what the stars looked like atop the Alborz mountains.

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