Poetry From the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Select Works of Poetry From the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

The Blue Cage by Arifa (September 6, 2011)

Mother, sister, girl under the blue burqa

No one can see my eyes, my face, even my family resemblance.

Who am I, woman under the burqa?

My beauty is covered. I can’t see the beautiful world.
It covers my identity and kills my personality.

Who am I under the blue burqa?

I want to fly from this blue cage.
I want to feel love and peace.
I want to take a pen and write dreams of freedom on the world walls.

Who am I under the blue burqa?

A mother who always suffers?
A sister who lost her brother?
A wife who lost her husband?
A citizen who lost her country in war?

Who am I under the blue burqa?

A mother who lost her son?
Where has he gone? Why did he take a gun instead of a pen?
Tell me he will come back alive or not.
Tell me he is coming back. He has gone to bring peace.
I am a useless woman under the blue burqa
Don’t look at me. I can’t help my country.
I am a prisoner under the blue burqa.

Kabul in Summers by Kabul Writers (August 10, 2011)

AWWP Editor’s note: This is a group poem written by AWWP writers during an August workshop in Kabul. Each writer contributed a line.

When the sun of the summer covers my cheeks,
I feel there is nothing lighter than its trace.
The hot weather of Kabul is like the blood

of martyrs who kill by suicide attack.
I search every alleyway looking for rain
to wash the dust from moments of sadness.

Summer in Kabul is too hot to fast, but we have to accept
it. I am thirsty in Ramazan summer; I think about water.
I enjoy the shade, the quiet Ramazan afternoons.

Circling dust at dusk, a moaning dog resurrects
Soviet spirits from the rusted, gutted tank atop the hill.
Bugs aren’t taboo, so I don’t know why Afghans don’t eat

them. Summer is a time for roses, reflection and dry heat.
I wish Afghans to have expressions warm as sunshine.
When summer winds come, they blow me toward my love.

Kabul in summer—it’s summer again!
Why are the people not happy?

The Kitchen by Roya (September 15, 2010)

My identity is hiding somewhere in the kitchen
Where destiny told me to be.
I don’t know where it is
If you look for it
Maybe you could find it
On my father’s favorite plate?
In my brother’s soup bowl?
On the shelf covered with salt?

In the morning, I am the broom eating dust
At 10 o’clock, it is time to cook the bread in the wood-fired oven
Eleven is time to cook lunch
Then I wash the dishes.

After that, the cow calls me
Come on
Milk
Milk
Then back to the kitchen
More cooking and washing.

I wait till the moon appears in the sky
I greet her as I go to my bed in the yard
I look at the moon
I understand nothing.

In my dreams, I see myself big
I go to school
Books in my hands
I see a nice office
with a computer
and my favorite clothes
a pink handbag.

But nothing comes true
It is always the same
I am without dreams
There is empty space in my soul
The kitchen is my past and future
I am Afghan woman.

Yesterday passed, I was hiding behind black curtains
Today it is again 10 o’clock
Time to cook the bread
As always
As every day.

Under Burqa by Seeta (April 27 2010)

AWWP Editor’s note: The chader namaz is a large prayer scarf that covers the entire body. The burqa is not required under the present Afghan regime, but due to political instability as well as family and tribal custom, it is almost universally worn in the more conservative parts of the country, and women who might not otherwise be inclined to don it sometimes must do so for personal safety.

 My face hidden, I smile,

unseen. It is I,
Afghan woman, under burqa.
I try to be brave, show my presence.
See me; don’t see me, but I am here.
I don’t care how hot it is under burqa.
I am invisible.
I am part of my community.
I am here, Afghan woman
under Taliban burqa.

I cannot use chader namaz
for I will be recognized,
my life threatened if they know
what I do under burqa.
They will make me stop working,
take my job, my life.
But I am an Afghan woman who wants
to stay safe, continue my fight.

Yes, I am brave under burqa,
enslaved in my generation of war.
Banned from education, my illiterate
sisters cannot work.
Some hide, learn in home-based classes,
work today, still at risk.

Foreign women come to see us,
under burqa, take our picture—
we are interesting, novel for them.
They don’t understand
our burqas are jail and safety made of fabric.
We are hidden beneath blue cloth,
confined, yet secure.

I am Afghan woman, working
under burqa. We are many
and if there is one, we are all
Afghan women.
Insha’Allah, we will one day
remove the burqa.

Yes, it is I, Afghan woman, under burqa—
Remember me.

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