I am a scholar of medieval Persian poetry. I am an Afghan poet writing in English. My debut collection is called Forty Names, published in 2021 by Carcanet Press. I also translate poetry, fiction, and essays from Persian/Dari into English.
Maceen & Al-khatoo
The night was getting darker. The air was feeling thinner. The only heaviness that Maceen felt was her hands and feet, not the book above her head. She loosened the two ends of black cloth around the book and tightened it around her head. With her back toward the moon, Maceen lay on her heart, on the side of the mountain, among the restless walking feet of the wolves, she slept in peace. She was awakened by the silence of the rising sun. The golden ray had forced the wolves to take their refuge among the caves. Maceen felt the urge to put down the book and open its layers to see what magic it beholds. But as soon as she lifted the book, she felt the fragility and fatigue of some old woman. It felt as if she had been carrying the whole mountain on her back, and it was weighing her entire body down.
Exoquilt in Love
It was Covid time. The world was quiet and empty. But amid fear and horror of life and death. She gave her heart to someone unknown yet so kind, who wanted to know her equally. They confessed their love, thinking the world would end with them, wrapped in the truest of truth and purest of pure love. But the world recovered from Covid. Life went back to normal. He got serious about her, and she remained crazy about him. He introduced her to his Catholic family in Milan city, somewhere near the Alps, where snow and mist dance. She was from Kabul and a Muslim. Recently, she had lost a country and wanted to belong somewhere, where her heart felt at home.
- Second Place in the Under a Spell Challenge
Maceen and Al-khatoo Second Place in the Under a Spell Challenge
Antar bantar, goft or daftar, choof, choof. The old lady said for the last time under her ‘second tongue,’ as the people of the town would say, so no one could hear her. The baby disappeared from her gahwara crib. “Didn’t I tell you? Didn’t I warn you all? Not to give her milk and honey. She is al-khatoo. She is the one and only alive otherworldly old woman, deceiving death…” Maceen kept screaming. But no one seemed to listen or mind her. Hunger and thirst had spread in the entire country by now. People cared more about food and water than their babies. “If you think, you have sacrificed her for this year’s harvest, you are wrong. Al-khatoo cannot do anything with God’s misery set upon us. She cannot bring us prosperity. She only takes it.” Still, nobody was listening to Maceen. The crowd now started dispersing. The twilight had disappeared somewhere in the darkness. The late autumn air felt cold around the village mountains. Only a few thoughtful parents locked their young kids in their empty tableee khana, where their livestock once used to spend evenings so that the insane members of the village do not snatch their babies at night to deliver them to Al-khatoo.
- Runner-Up in Painted Prose Challenge
The Copper-Green Woman in the PicturesRunner-Up in Painted Prose Challenge
I remember the day I stood next to the copper-green woman. I forgot all about Iqbal and the colour of the henna around my hands. I was now feeling like the copper-green woman from the pictures. Static and full of secrets. The kind of secrets that Safa knew about me and together with me. So openly and so gently, every night in that narrow lane, we shared moments without our naked bodies or one on top of another. We were two halves of the same apple, becoming whole. Or better. Just like an apple, we were secretive. From the inside, filled with colours and textures, and from the outside just as plain as the water in the well. I was Safa’s secret affairs for over a year until Iqbal came to Kabul. In a month’s time, he convinced my parents and got engaged with me. He carried me alongside his suitcases, first to Islamabad, Pakistan then to Atlanta, America. We ended up in a place called Virginia. They say, the green woman in Iqbal’s photographs is called the Statue of Liberty, which is in New York City. I had wished since then to meet her. I waited to meet her one day, as it seemed she encompassed me and Safa in stillness. With her torch and the liberty that glowed around her head. That’s how I would show that Safa will be in my heart forever.
- Runner-Up in After the Parade Challenge