Mujib Mehrdad


Translated from the Persian by Hilal Nazki and Mujib Mehrdad, with R. Valentino


We were shamed by your insistent stare at our immigrant form,

Afraid when our children laughed too loudly in your parks.


We are guilty of inhabiting your battle fields.

It’s our fault we call each other comrade.

Only in others’ lands,

Under the baton,


When there is no safe country to which to return,

Let them strike you in the head.


Still we have a right to live,

And like you

We’re afraid of bloody bodies.


Think for a moment that

Children are passing in the streets,

And lucky women likewise,

On the way to prepare breakfast for nervous men


Have you seen

the rush of shrapnel at throngs of children in the road?


Enough! Your children return safe to your homes

and the explosion hasn’t yet sprinkled the blood on

your city walls.


The mines you plant,

Grow your flags on our soil,

And the suicide bombers blood of Kabul

Moan in the parks.


Our blood does not speak of anyone,

And beneath cabinet members’ cars,

Streaming silently,

On its way to the presidential palace,

It dries

under the hot sun.

Countless Battlefields

Translated from the Persian by Farzana Marie


Get out of our collars—

foreign soldiers too are whispering between our legs.

Inside homes, warriors and children

eat their evening meal

in a combat zone.


Your weapons-stash is in my hair

your battalions crawl across my skin,

that’s why helicopters

are circling above my head.


My body, beloved land,

now famous for marks of boots and whips,

shrapnel kiss is yours

caress of fire is yours

Lust, the only trench

to shelter freezing hands

and molten tanks with their long snouts

crowd in from everywhere to drink

from small streams of blood.


The infantry spread around

this time a different soldier

kicks down my door

to find my body in my own house.

In such days, all doors shatter

and lust, amid bullets and blood,

recognizes the virgin city

and the city, amid bullets and blood,

embraces the young soldiers—

who have no mercy

when they touch—


A Solider’s Letter


I don’t remember the Mississippi River with its warm sand

I just wonder

will the sand of your eyes touch my body again?


The black cat in my house

can walk on your bed.

He doesn’t drink,

just sits on the sofa and listens

to your songs when you are in the bath

or kitchen


It’s his voice that comes from the gateway

And you close the door behind him

Frequently in the day


He goes to the park, sits with you on the bench

It licks your fingers

as you massage its neck muscles

it gets calmer when it receives the pain from your fingertips.


Vases that we bought

Harm their flowers when we are out,

and if we don’t open the windows,

rooms spread their poison.


It’s called Helmand,

a wilderness lit by thousands of stars

at night,

and during the day

the sun is as hot as I can hear my blood

boiling in my veins.


Hard men live on the edge of this wilderness,

and women move like ghosts

through the corn fields,

hiding their faces

even from sunflowers.


Men fall in love with these ghosts

and when they are called to holy war,

the leave them alone with their sad songs on the fields

The women pass the time looking at the herbs,

touching them

like you touch my photo each morning

with your lips.


They don’t have a photo to touch.


They work like you, but in blazing fields

that also belong to the snakes,

they care for herds of children.

They work hard in those fields,

where perhaps it was their lovers

who planted mines.


Like you, they treasure the details

of daily life

since in their fields,

in your house,

love rests like a mist over everything.

Mujib Mehrdad (poet, playwright, translator; Afghanistan) is the author of the poetry collections [Gladiators Are Still Dying] (2007; winner of the Afghan Civil Society’s literature contest), [The Fishes Have Fled Our Veins] (2008), and [Audience] (2009),and of the collection of essays [The Rain Passed]. He has translated Ginsberg, Plath,Langston Hughes, Mayakovsky, Tagore, and others, into Dari. He is a board member of the literary organization Kashane Nawesendagan [House of Authors] and teachesPersian literature at Albironi University in Kapisa. His participation is made possible by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. – See more here.