Time burst and we emerged
to begin our lives,
we tied our shoes and ran away.
The street was full of worried eyes,
were full of the street—
our hands have been cobblestoned
and our heart valves opened
like cheap cabarets.
I don’t know why or where or how
I put your temptation away inside a book
I don’t know why or where or how
my eye slipped on the buttons of your dress
I don’t know why or where or why
my eyelid pulsed—
Now you’re gone
and life in my brain’s gray cells
is a replay of our days together.
The Sahara is expanding in my chest
and yet seven seas beyond that
acid rain intoxicates the dead
of Dasht-e Leili.
Do you remember, darling?
We were suffering
while the government in the Arg
we were suffering
and a woman in Badakhshan was dying
we were reciting poems
and a man was butchered
in the south.
Do you remember?
I was in Mullah Omar’s heartland
reciting love poems
I said: the prayer beads mature in the tavern
and love matures in fear.
Everything is fine here.
“No clouds, no wind, I sit next to the pool.”
Just a song is enough to complete
the Attan dance
and the looting of my father’s land
even outdoes the Mongols.
Everything is fine:
the disaffected brother
smokes shisha and cuts off ears in the evenings,
cuts off the nose so his wife
will not smell the opium
and people’s steeped brains.
He cuts off ears so that
we will be domesticated,
he is so religious
that he impregnates eleven houris every night
and in the morning, goes to the Arg
to sharpen his artificial teeth.
But I still worry
about your dress
because my eyelid pulses constantly.
the weather is cold
and many babies are being aborted
standing in a line
of one hundred and twenty thousand prophets
are still thirsty, still hungry…but we voted.
We cannot change the world,
sing songs, and be happy;
just let me squeeze the map
into the space of a cage
so that our lands will mate.
The police say: terrorists
speak in strange languages.
I lock my tongue
even though I’ve prayed
in Persian for a thousand years.
In solitary confinement
I continually confess
and at night
when I stretch out my bones in the corner
I pray your name
seventy two times and no more.
You sit in far-off longing
and all of my roads to your arms
are blocked today
—They say an explosion happened out your way—
Do you remember
Venice, where the Mediterranean came up
and pulled your ankle to the ocean?
I said: this is enough for the sea fairies
to find their lost way.
You laughed, what a pity
how quickly we have been lost.
My longing is so deep
that three hundred and sixty five miners
have died in it.
Berlin, 26 November, 2010
1. Dasht-e Leili refers to a desert located in Jawzjan province in the north of Afghanistan. The place is famous for the massacre of Taliban fighters there in 2001, but prior to that, in the summer of 1998, when the Taliban captured Mazar-e Sharif, its fighters brought hundreds of men to the desert and killed them.
S. Asef Hossaini was born in northern Afghanistan. When he was one year old, his family emigrated to Iran due to the Soviet invasion. He completed his primary and secondary education there. After the fall of the Taliban, Asef returned to Afghanistan at age twenty-two to study philosophy and sociology at Kabul University. In 2005, as a student and a leader of the Afghanistan Student Movement, Asef ran for a seat in Afghanistan’s first parliamentary election. His poetry collections, These Walking Shoes, Four Planets in My Room and I, Affected by the Lunar Eclipse, have been published in Kabul, Tehran, and Germany.
Farzana Marie is a PhD candidate in Persian literature at the University of Arizona and president of the nonprofit Civil Vision International. She grew up in Chile, California, and Kazakhstan, later spending years in Afghanistan as a civilian volunteer and Air Force officer. She is the author of the nonfiction book Hearts for Sale! A Buyer’s Guide to Winning in Afghanistan, (Worldwide Writings, 2013), the poetry chapbook Letters to War and Lethe (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and a forthcoming book of poetry in translation, Load Poems Like Guns: Women’s Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan (Holy Cow! Press, 2015). She’s on Twitter @farzanamarie.
Feature image by Mohammed Muhriddin.
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