Afghanistan

 

gulbuddin hekmatyar 008Afghanistan has Poetry in its Soul

by Rez Mohammadi for the Guardian.com.uk
Photo: Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin

Hekmatyar, wanted by the US, is also a professional poet. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP

When the Taliban's poetry book was published in the UK, many found it very strange indeed, but someone who understands the culture and lifestyle of Afghans knows how important poetry is to Afghans. On a visit to Jalalabad during the orange flower blossom celebration, I have felt the power of poetry within the people. As each word was recited by poets, people would rise up, cheer, and then sit down. This is how Afghans live and breathe poetry and drown in an illusion and dream.

The Taliban are like other Afghans, humbled by poetry, and their connection to poetry is older than their connection to radical Islam, the Kalashnikov and grenades.

The history of poetry in Afghanistan dates back millennia. It flourished during the reign of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, who ruled from 998 to 1030, and was a man of literature and poetry, with more than 700 poets living in his palace. But 100 years before the Sultan of Ghazni, Persian literature was born in the court of the first Persian king, Yaqub, in Nimruz, a western province of Afghanistan. It is said that one day a poem was recited in Arabic to praise him, but as Yaqub didn't understand Arabic he ordered that no poem should be recited in a language he did not know. So the literary men of the court were forced to compose poems in Farsi, the language of the king. And the rest is history.

Poetry is everything to Afghans, we hear and recite poetry from cradle to grave. Regardless of our ethnicity, whether we are Tajik, Hazara, Pashtun, Uzbek, Turkmen, Nuristani, Baluch, or any other of the hundreds of sub-ethnic groups, Afghans are threaded together by poetry.

Babies are rocked to sleep with spontaneous poetry recited in lullabies by their mothers. These mothers learned how to be poets from their mothers; as their mothers had learned from their mothers. This is how our society of poets was born.

When children begin school, the first Persian text introduced to them is Divane Hafiz of Shiraz. Hafiz was a 14th century poet from Shiraz (modern-day Iran). Traditionalists believe Divane Hafiz of Shiraz is the book of knowledge, containing everything from poetry to philosophy. Non-Persian speakers have their own version – among Pashtuns, Rahman Baba, and among Uzbeks, Fuzoli or Navai hold the same stature.

As Afghans get older, Hafiz is replaced with the study of other poets. In the mornings, Saadi, another poet from Shiraz, is studied, and in the afternoons we read Bedil, a Persian speaking poet from Delhi whose work is more complicated and philosophical. Evening and long nights of winter are dedicated to Shahname (Book of the Kings) by Firdausi. Shahname is the greatest Persian work of poetry and is compared to Homer's Odyssey. It is an epic poem written 1,000 years ago with an anti-Arabic ideology, aimed to preserve the Persian language and culture.

Poetry infiltrates all levels of Afghani society. When the mullahs want to make a statement but cannot back it by reason, they back it with a poem and end the discussion. In the recent years, lords and warlords have competed to have the best poets onside, much like the courts of the past kings. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of one of the terrorist groups – one of the most wanted in America – is a professional poet. Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary commander and rival to Hekmatyar was also a poet. Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the leader of the opposition and Gilani, head of a Sufi popular group also share the passion for poetry. This common thread can at times bring all the leaders and commanders together under one roof.

About 10 years ago, at the end of the civil war but before the American bombs began to drop, some poets and I were invited to Mazar-e-Sharif by a local governor. We went for a week and were forced to stay for two months. All the commanders and the warlords fought to host us and they would invite the whole city in our honour. A scene that to most would only occur in the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez is part of our reality in Afghanistan.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/21/afghanistan-poetry-in-soul-taliban

 

120428 UVP Get on the Bus Nadia AnjumanNadia Anjuman (1980 – 4 November 2005) was a Persian poet and journalist from Afghanistan. In 2005, while still a student at Herat University, she had her first book of poetry published, Gul-e-dodi ("Dark Red Flower") which proved popular in Afghanistan, Pakistan and even nearby Iran. Then, on November 4 of that year, police officers found her body in her home in the western city of Herat. Soon afterward, a senior police officer, Nisar Ahmad Paikar, stated that her husband had confessed to battering her, following a row, but not to killing her. It was reported that she died as a result of injuries to her head.

The United Nations condemned the killing soon afterwards. Their spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, said that "[t]he death of Nadia Anjuman, as reported, is indeed tragic and a great loss to Afghanistan... It needs to be investigated and anyone found responsible needs to be dealt with in a proper court of law". Paikar confirmed that her husband had indeed been charged. According to friends and family, Anjuman was apparently a disgrace to her family due to her poetry, which described the oppression of Afghan woman. A selection from one of Nadia Anjuman's poems is as follows: I am caged in this corner / full of melancholy and sorrow... my wings are closed and I cannot fly... I am an Afghan woman and I must wail". During the Taliban regime, Anjuman and other female writers of the Heret literary circle would study banned writers such as William Shakespeare and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Had they been caught, they risked being hanged. In Afghanistan, women still have very little control over their bodies which are seen as "globalized property". Men control 90 percent of the justice system and as a result, access is near impenetrable to Afghan women. Anjuman's death is also a reflection of the current domestic violence in many households where the husband is the ultimate decision maker and the wife is subservient. Similarly, women are required to uphold culture and tradition which are direct reflections of status.

Anjuman was survived by a six-month-old daughter.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadia_Anjuman.

Writings of Nadia Anjuman

I was discarded everywhere, the poetic whisper in my soul died.
Do not search for the meaning of joy in me, all the joy in my heart died.
If you are looking for stars in my eyes, that is a tale that does not exist.
--Nadia Anjuman

Do not question love as it is the inspiration of your pen
My loving words had in mind death
--Nadia Anjuman, "Strands of Steel"

Nadia Anjuman was a poet whose words may have been her downfall. Her own family, which should have tended and cherished her gift, somehow saw only shame in the love and beauty she brought to the world.

Even though I am the daughter of poem and songs
My poem was novice and broken
My autonomous twig did not recognize the hand of the gardener
--Nadia Anjuman, "Strands of Steel"

A poet like Nadia Anjuman can be likened to a caged bird, deprived of flight, who somehow finds it within herself to sing of love and beauty. But when the world finally robs her of both flight and song, what is left for her but to leave the world, thus bereaving the world of herself, her song, and the flights of awe they might have taken together?

I am caged in this corner
full of melancholy and sorrow ...
my wings are closed and I cannot fly ...
I am an Afghan woman and so must wail.
--Nadia Anjuman

For Nadia Anjuman, there may have been a fate worse than death: not to be free to act, not to be free to speak, not to be free to write poetry. But for every constraining band of steel meant to cage, bind and ultimately silence her, she has left enduring words of steel. Truly, she has left her mark.

Do not ask of my blooms great looks
On hands, feet, and tongue strands of steel
on the tablet of time, this will be my mark
--Nadia Anjuman, "Strands of Steel"

Ghazal by Nadia Anjuman

Translated by Khizra Aslam

From this cup of my lips comes a song;
It captures my singing soul, my song.
That in my words is the meaning of ecstasy,
That dies my happiness into grief, my song.

If you see that my eyes say a word,
Then take it as my forgetfulness, my song.

Do not ask of love, O it tells me of you;
My words of love speak of death, my song.

His hope, like flowers, I desire.
No drop of my eyes is enough, my song.

The daughter of this place sings qasida, a ghazal,
But what spoils her strange verses, my song?

O the gardener does not understand my happiness;
O do not ask for many looks of my youth, my song.

From this hands, these feet and words, it looks strange
That my name is written on the slate of this age, my song.

A poem by Nadia Anjoman

Translated by Mahnaz Badihian

No desire to open my mouth
What should I sing of...?
I, who am hated by life.
No difference to sing or not to sing.
Why should I talk of sweetness,
When I feel bitterness?
Oh, the oppressor's feast
Knocked my mouth.
I have no companion in life
Who can I be sweet for?
No difference to speak, to laugh,
To die, to be.
Me and my strained solitude.
With sorrow and sadness.
I was borne for nothingness.
My mouth should be sealed.
Oh my heart, you know it is spring
And time to celebrate.
What should I do with a trapped wing,
Which does not let me fly?
I have been silent too long,
But I never forget the melody,
Since every moment I whisper
The songs from my heart,
Reminding myself of
The day I will break this cage,
Fly from this solitude
And sing like a melancholic.
I am not a weak poplar tree
To be shaken by any wind.
I am an Afghan woman,
It only makes sense to moan

Ghazal

Translated by Khizra Aslam

There is no desire to speak again; whom to ask, what to say?
I, who was treated ill, what should I not read, what not to say?

What should I tell that honey for me is like poison!
I cry; the fist of the cruel! It teases. Would I not say?

There is no one who knows my affliction, none I trust;
For what should I cry, laugh, die, and live today?

I and this faith; the grief of my failure, and this wishfulness;
I cannot do anything; and the words of affection, if only I could say.

O my heart, there was spring and there was this season of comfort.
But I cannot fly anymore. I want to know to whom should I say ...

Though I am quiet and cannot remember any song,
Yet all the time, something stirs in my heart that I should say.

Ah, remember the good day when this cage was broken;
That loneliness is gone, my delight, I sing the cares away.

I am a frail stick that trembles in air each time;
An Afghan daughter who can say wherever she needs to say.

Ghazal

Translated by Khizra Aslam

It is night and these words come to me
By the call of my voice words come to me

What fire blazes in me, what water do I get?
From my body, the fragrance of my soul comes to me

I do not know from where these great words come
The fresh breeze takes loneliness away from me

That from the clouds of light comes this light
That there is no other wish that comes to me

The cry of my heart sparkles like a star
And the bird of my flight touches the sky

My madness can be found in his book
O do not say no, my master, O look once at me

It is like the day of judgment
Like doomsday my silence comes at me

I am happy that the giver gives me silk
And all night, all along these verses come to me

Nazm

Translated by Khizra Aslam

O the one who hides in the mountain of unfamiliarity!
O you that sleep in the quietness of the pearl.
O who remains in the memories!
Bring the memories of transparent water.
In a river like forgetfulness, my mind is full of dust.
The voice that comes from the mountain makes me think
That from the one who destroys, how can you get your golden string?
That the storm of cruelty affects the faith.
How can you get the comfort of a moon from a silver leaf?
There is no death after this!
If the river stops to flow,
And if the clouds open a way to your heart,
And yes, if the daughter of the moon blesses you with her smiles.
If the mountains become soft, greenery grows,
Fruit grows.
And one was kind, from all the unkind.
Will the sun rise?
Will the memories rise with it too?
Those memories that are hidden from our eyes
And while frightened from the flood and the rain of cruelness
Will the light of hope appear?

Memories of light blue

Translated by David Tayyari

You, exiles of the mountains of oblivion
You, diamonds of your names sleeping in quagmire of silence
You the ones your memories faded, memories of light blue
In the mind of muddy waves of forgotten sea
Where are your clear flowing thoughts?
Where did your peace-marked silver boat moon craft go?
After this death-giving freeze, the sea clams
The clouds, if they clear heart from bitterness
If daughter of moonlight brings kindness, induces smiles
If the mountain softens heart, grows green and
Turns fruitful
One of your names, above the mountain peaks
Will become the sun?
Sunrise of your memories
Memories of light blue
In the eyes of tired-of-flood-water fish and
Scared of rain of darkness
Will it become a sight of hope?

(Translator's Note: "light blue" = "great hopes")

Translators for the poetry of Nadia Anjuyman were arranged by Thomas Fortenberry and Mindfire.

 

 45684874 pashtopoetry

 

Zarlasht Hafeez

Zarlasht Hafeez is a female Pashto poet. She has recently published a collection fo poetry about the events in her homeland. The collection is Waiting for Peace. Pashtos, also known as Pathan, Pakhuns or Afghans are famous for their proud traditions, and poetry has always been an essential expression of their culture.

Here is an extract from her collection.

The sorrow and grief, these black evenings,
Eyes full of tears and times full of sadness,
These burnt hearts, the killing of youths,
These unfulfilled expectations and unmet hopes of brides,
With a hatred for war, I call time and again,
I wait for peace for the grief-stricken Pashtuns.

 

 

Malalai Joya visits a girls school in Farah province in AfghanistanMalalai Joya: The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan

Malalai Joya, at only 30 years of age, has been called “the most famous woman in Afghanistan” and compared to democratic leaders such as Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. Born in Afghanistan’s remote Farah Province, she grew up in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan before returning to Afghanistan as a social activist and a teacher at underground girls’ schools during the Taliban’s reign. In 2003 she was elected to Afghanistan’s constitutional assembly and, two years later, was the youngest person elected to Afghanistan’s new Parliament, a post from which she was suspended in 2007 for her regular denunciation of the country’s warlords and their cronies in government.

Malalai Joya's 2003 historic speech delivered to the Loyta Jirga in Kabul
Visit Malalali Joya's Defense Committee website: http://www.malalaijoya.com
Become a friend and supporter of Malalai Joya at: https://www.facebook.com/joya.malalai

Learn More about Malalai Joya

Inspired in part by her father's activism, Malalai became a teacher in secret girls' schools, holding classes in a series of basements. She hid her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn't find them. She also helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah. The endless wars of Afghanistan have created a generation of children without parents. Like so many others who have lost people they care about, Malalai lost one of her orphans when the girl's family members sold her into marriage.

While many have talked about the serious plight of women in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya takes us inside the country and shows us the desperate dayto-day situations these remarkable people face at every turn. She recounts some of the many acts of rebellion that are helping to change the country -- the women who bravely take to the streets in peaceful protest against their oppression; the men who step forward and claim "I am her mahram," so the fundamentalists won't punish a woman for walking alone; and the families that give their basements as classrooms for female students.

A controversial political figure in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Malalai Joya is a hero for our times, a young woman who refused to be silent, a young woman committed to making a difference in the world, no matter the cost.

An Introduction to Malalai Joya's book, A Woman Among Warloards:

Dust in the Eyes of the World

I come from a land of tragedy called Afghanistan.

My life has taken some unusual turns, but in many ways my story is the story of a generation. For the thirty years I have been alive, my country has suffered from the constant scourge of war. Most Afghans my age and younger have only known bloodshed, displacement, and occupation. When I was a baby in my mother's arms, the Soviet Union invaded my country. When I was four years old, my family and I were forced to live as refugees in Iran and then Pakistan. Millions of Afghans were killed or exiled, like my family, during the battle-torn 1980s. When the Russians finally left and their puppet regime was overthrown, we faced a vicious civil war between fundamentalist warlords, followed by the rule of the depraved and medieval Taliban.

After the tragic day of September 11, 2001, many in Afghanistan thought that, with the ensuing overthrow of the Taliban, they might finally see some light, some justice and progress. But it was not to be. The Afghan people have been betrayed once again by those who are claiming to help them. More than seven years after the U.S. invasion, we are still faced with foreign occupation and a U.S.-backed government filled with warlords who are just like the Taliban. Instead of putting these ruthless murderers on trial for war crimes, the United States and its allies placed them in positions of power, where they continue to terrorize ordinary Afghans.

You may be shocked to hear this, because the truth about Afghanistan has been hidden behind a smoke screen of words and images carefully crafted by the United States and its NATO allies and repeated without question by the Western media.

You may have been led to believe that once the Taliban was driven from power, justice returned to my country. Afghan women like me, voting and running for office, have been held up as proof that the U.S. military has brought democracy and women's rights to Afghanistan.

But it is all a lie, dust in the eyes of the world.

I am the youngest member of the Afghan Parliament, but I have been banished from my seat and threatened with death because I speak the truth about the warlords and criminals in the puppet government of Hamid Karzai. I have already survived at least five assassination attempts and uncounted plots against me. Because of this, I am forced to live like a fugitive within my own country. A trusted uncle heads my detail of bodyguards, and we move to different houses almost every night to stay a step ahead of my enemies.

To hide my identity, I must travel under the cover of the heavy cloth burqa, which to me is a symbol of women's oppression, like a shroud for the living. Even during the dark days of the Taliban I could at least go outside under the burqa to teach girls in secret classes. But today I don't feel safe under my burqa, even with armed guards to escort me. My visitors are searched for weapons, and even the flowers at my wedding had to be checked for bombs. I cannot tell you my family's name, or the name of my husband, because it would place them in terrible danger. And for this reason, I have changed several other names in this book.

I call myself Joya -- an alias I adopted during the time of the Taliban when I worked as an underground activist. The name Joya has great significance in my country. Sarwar Joya was an Afghan writer, poet, and constitutionalist who struggled against injustice during the early twentieth century. He spent nearly twenty-four years of his life in jails and was finally killed because he would not compromise his democratic principles.

I know that because I refuse to compromise my opposition to the warlords and fundamentalists or soften my speeches denouncing them, I, too, may join Joya on the long list Afghans who have died for freedom. But you cannot compromise the truth. And I am not afraid of an early death if it would advance the cause of justice. Even the grave cannot silence my voice, because there are others who would carry on after me.

The sad fact is that in Afghanistan, killing a woman is like killing a bird. The United States has tried to justify its occupation with rhetoric about "liberating" Afghan women, but we remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Fundamentalists still preach that "a woman should be in her house or in the grave." In most places it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered, or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished every day.

For both men and women in Afghanistan, our lives are short and often wracked by violence, loss, and anguish. The life expectancy here is less than forty-five years -- an age that in the West is called "middle age." We live in desperate poverty. A staggering 70 percent of Afghans survive on less than two dollars per day. And it is estimated that more than half of Afghan men and 80 percent of women are illiterate. In the past few years, hundreds of women have committed self-immolation -- literally burned themselves to death -- to escape their miseries.

This is the history I have lived through, and this is the tragic situation today that I am working with many others to change. I am no better than any of my suffering people. Fate and history have made me in some ways a "voice of the voiceless," the many thousands and millions of Afghans who have endured decades of war and injustice.

For years, my supporters have urged me to write a book about my life. I have always resisted because I do not feel comfortable writing about myself. I feel that my story, on its own, is not important. But finally my friends persuaded me to go ahead with this book as a way to talk about the plight of the Afghan people from the perspective of a member of my country's war generation. I agreed to use my personal experiences as a way to tell the political history of Afghanistan, focusing on the past three decades of oppressive misrule. The story of the dangerous campaign I ran to represent the poor people of my province, the physical and verbal attacks I endured as a member of Parliament, and the devious, illegal plot to banish me from my elected post -- all of it illuminates the corruption and injustice that prevents Afghanistan from becoming a true democracy. In this way it is not just my story, but the story of my struggling people.

Many books were written about Afghanistan after the 9/11 tragedy, but only a few of them offer a complete and realistic picture of the country's past. Most of them describe in depth the cruelties and injustices of the Taliban regime but usually ignore or try to hide one of the darkest periods of our history: the rule of the fundamentalist mujahideen between 1992 and 1996. I hope this book will draw attention to the atrocities committed by these warlords who now dominate the Karzai regime.

I also hope this book will correct the tremendous amount of misinformation being spread about Afghanistan. Afghans are sometimes represented in the media as a backward people, nothing more than terrorists, criminals, and henchmen. This false image is extremely dangerous for the future of both my country and the West. The truth is that Afghans are brave and freedom-loving people with a rich culture and a proud history. We are capable of defending our independence, governing ourselves, and determining our own future.

But Afghanistan has long been used as a deadly playground in the "Great Game" between superpowers, from the British Empire to the Soviet empire, and now the Americans and their allies. They have tried to rule Afghanistan by dividing it. They have given money and power to thugs and fundamentalists and warlords who have driven our people into terrible misery. We do not want to be misused and misrepresented to the world. We need security and a helping hand from friends around the world, but not this endless U.S.-led "war on terror," which is in fact a war against the Afghan people. The Afghan people are not terrorists; we are the victims of terrorism. Today the soil of Afghanistan is full of land mines, bullets, and bombs -- when what we really need is an invasion of hospitals, clinics, and schools for boys and girls.

I was also reluctant to write this memoir because I'd always thought that books should first be written about the many democratic activists who have been martyred, the secret heroes and heroines of Afghanistan's history. I feel the same way about some of the awards that I have received from international human rights groups in recent years. The ones who came before me are more deserving. It is an honor to be recognized, but I only wish that all the love and support I have been shown could be given to the orphans and widows of Afghanistan. For me, the awards and honors belong to all my people, and each distinction I receive only adds to my sense of responsibility to our common struggle. For this reason, all of my earnings from this book will go toward supporting urgently needed humanitarian projects in Afghanistan aimed at changing lives for the better.

As I write these words, the situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse. And not just for women, but for all Afghans. We are caught between two enemies -- the Taliban on one side and the U.S./ NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. And the dark-minded forces in our country are gaining power with every allied air strike that kills civilians, with every corrupt government official who grows fat on bribes and thievery, and with every criminal who escapes justice.

Joya, Malalai. A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner, 2009).

 

Englis7Partaw Naderi

Partaw Naderi was born in Badakhshan in northern Afghanistan, in 1953. Steeped in the rich traditions of Persian poetry, his bold innovations have led him to be regarded as one of the leading modernist poets in Afghanistan. He studied in his birthplace and graduated from the Faculty of Sciences at Kabul University in 1354 [1976]. He was imprisoned in the notorious Pul-e-Charki prison by the Soviet-backed regime for three years in the 1970s shortly after he’d begun to write poetry. He is now widely regarded as one of the leading modernist poets in Afghanistan, the lyrical intensity of his work coupled with his bold use of free verse distinguishing him as a highly original and important poet. After years in exile he recently returned to live in Kabul where he is president of Afghan PEN.

The Bloody Epitaph

This palm tree has no hope of spring
This palm tree blossoms
with a hundred wounds
- the daily wounds of a thousand tragedies
- the nightly wounds of a thousand calamities
This palm tree is a bloody epitaph
at the crossroads of the century

Here, by the river,
•- a river of blood and tears -
the roots of this palm tree
are congealed with disaster
are knotted with the blind roots of time

Here, the sky
unwinds its bloody cloth
from barren red clouds
to shroud the shattered lid of a coffin
•- a broken mirror of rain
This palm tree has no hope of spring

This palm tree has no hope of spring
This palm tree is starred
with a hundred bruises
from the whip of the north wind
My palm!
My only tree!
My spring!
Many years have passed
since the bird of blossoms
flew away from your desiccated branches

Butterflies abandon you
My heart is broken

Earth

The earth opens her warm arms
to embrace me
The earth is my mother
She understands the sorrow
of my wandering

My wandering
is an old crow
that conquers
the very top of an aspen
a thousand times a day

Perhaps life is a crow
that each dawn
dips its blackened beak
in the holy well of the sun

Perhaps life is a crow
that takes flight with Satan’s wings

Perhaps life is Satan himself
awakening a wicked man to murder

Perhaps life is the grief-stricken earth
who has opened up her bloodied arms to me

And here I give thanks
on the brink of ‘victory’

translated by Sarah Maguire

Lucky Men

When your star is unseen in this desolate sky,
your despair itself becomes a star.

My twin, the steadfast sun, and I
both grasp its far-flung brilliance.

In a land where water is locked up
in the very depths of desiccated rocks,
the trees are ashamed of their wizened fruits.

The honest orchard is laid waste —
such a bloodied carpet
is spread before the future.

Yesterday, leaning on my cane,
I returned from the trees' cremation.

Today, I search the ashes
for my lost, homeless phoenix.

Perhaps it was you who shadowed me,
perhaps it was only my shadow.

Even though the lucky men in my land
lack stars in the heavens, lack shadows on the earth

they welcome any stars
that grace their devastated sky.

O, my friend, my only friend,
turn your anguish into constellations!

The literal translation of this poem was made by Yama Yari
The final translated version of the poem is by Sarah Maguire

Sarah Maguire is the founder and director of the Poetry Translation Centre. She has published four highly-acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently The Pomegranates of Kandahar, which was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize 2007. She received a Cholmondeley Award in 2008.

Yama Yari was born in Herat in 1980 and came to the UK in 1999. He is the co-translator, with Sarah Maguire, of A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear (Chatto, 2006) by Atiq Rahimi, Afghanistan's most important living novelist.

 

ParweenParween Faiz Zadah Malaal

Parween Faiz Zadah Malaal is one of the most popular women poets writing in Pashto. Born in 1957, in southern Afghanistan (Kandahar province), Parween began her career as a journlaist by writing for the daily paper Tolo-e-Afghan in Kandahar. She also worked in Kabul for Radio Afghanistan. She has recently moved to Peshawar where she has published both short stories and three collections of poetry. This poem is taken from Da Khazaan Tilayee Ploona (The Golden Footsteps of Autumn) published in Peshawar in 2002.

Like a Desert Flower

Like a desert flower
waiting for rain,
like a river-bank thirsting for the touch of pitchers,
like the dawn longing for light;
and like a house, like a house in ruins for want of a woman —
the exhausted ones of our times
need a moment to breathe,
need a moment to sleep,
in the arms of peace, in the arms of peace.

translated by the Poetry Translation Centre, from Da Khazaan Tilayee Ploona (The Golden Footsteps of Autumn), published in Peshawar.

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