from Dark Flower

Nadia Anjuman


That night . . .
the scorpions gathered in secret
for a fierce exchange
                              that went on for some time
The subject: Injecting poison into bodies of knowledge!
Choosing that poison
                              They could not reach a verdict
Suddenly, from the group
the most hideous of them all
opened his mouth, his tongue like a sword
                              and spoke:
                              The night is passing—no time for delay
When our prey close their eyes
rise and find a point to sting
I have inherited
an ancient jar of deadly venom from my ancestors
Now I am the generous one who will pass it on . . .

Sarataan 1380/Summer 2001

Drink! Drink!

Why mind the heart's moans?
Why the burning sketch of grief's pain?

If your beloved leaves, let God go with him
Why tear your clothes at the loss?

Don't rush—this road is a dead end!
Why gallop toward infinity?

I will connect with everything
Why cut yourself from earth and sky?

If he will not be kind, I will
Why break the bond?

Surely the hunter has set his marks
Why run away? He will still hound me

You can sing with grace from a cage
Why keep the memory of flight in your head?

Come inside and say hello
Why sneak from behind a curtain?

Whatever his cup holds, it's sweet
Why just sip? Drink! Drink!

We will reach the palm grove one day
Why the dark talk of never arriving?

Qaws 1380/Winter 2001

The Dark Mountain

O exiles of the dark mountain
O your glittering names asleep in mute sand
O your dim memories
                               —those blue-bright thoughts
                               under a wave's muddied mind in the sea of limbo

Where is your shining mind?
What hand looted your hopes
                                         from that rare golden tree?
Where did your soothing moonboat hide
in this shadowy storm?

If the sea quiets
                               after this deadly frost
If the cloudburst calms
If the moon's daughter brings feeling
                                        and laughter

If the mountain's heart softens and puts out flowers
                                        grows breedy
then will you be named the sun
                                        of its peaks?
Will the dawn of your ideas—
those blue-bright thoughts
in the eyes of the storm-born fish
afraid of pouring darkness—
                                        become the face of hope?
O exiles of the dark mountain!

Qaws 1380/Winter 2001 

Human, Iron, & Stone

In this iron tomb
the wall's body is forever fixed to the door's flesh
It will never open
Ugh, doorkeeper!
Stop pounding in vain
The key is here, but the lock is rotted shut
Go away, doorkeeper, let my mind's ear
rest . . . . . . . . . . . . just once
Here, I have stone and iron for family
Stone and I have a pact to linger together
               Let me wander with it in this leaden place of patience

I am not afraid of the limbo of death
The storm's blows no longer hurt me
Don't speak of water's hermetic art
Don't speak of the endless blue
I have succumbed to the dark sky of the lagoon

I have taken root here—
in an iron land with lead-blue clouds in an iron sky
                                                               that howls
Forget me—shackles sprout from my branches every second
Go away doorkeeper, don't tire yourself by pounding on iron
You cannot bear to be broken
I know well that human, iron, and stone
                              go hand-in-hand to the end of pain's eternal road
                                                                        strolling together
And the company doesn't staunch the rush of fears
                                                    the jet of darkness
Go away doorkeeper, go—your hands are not empty
Go—you hold the unwieldy tale of my world
Go tell it in full to the city
Say that behind this rough wall
a woman made an eternal pact with stone
and in the depths of misery
                                she joined the children of iron

Qaws 1380/Winter 2001 

translated from the Dari by Diana Arterian and Marina Omar