Kabul by Shakila Azizzada


by Shakila Azizzada

Translated by Zuzanna Olszewska with Mimi Khalvati

If my heart beats
for Kabul,
it’s for the slopes of Bala Hissar,
holding my dead
in its foothills.

Though not one, not one
of those wretched hearts
ever beat for me.

If my heart grieves
for Kabul,
it’s for Leyla’s sighs of
“Oh, dear God!”
and my grandmother’s heart
set pounding.

It’s for Golnar’s eyes
scanning the paths
from dawn to dusk, spring to autumn,
staring so long
that all the roads fall apart
and in my teenage nightmares
side roads
suddenly shed their skins.

If my heart trembles
for Kabul,
it’s for the slow step of summer noons,
siestas in my father’s house which,
heavy with mid-day sleep,
still weighs on my ribs.
For the playful Angel of the Right Shoulder
who keeps forgetting
to ward away stray bullets.

It’s for the hawker’s cry
of the vegetable seller doing his rounds,
lost in my neighbours’ troubled dreams,
that my heart’s trembling.

PHOTO: Kabul, Afghanistan, at night (2016) by Dani, used by permission. 


NOTE: Bala Hissar (“High Fort”) is an ancient fortress located in the south of the old city of Kabul, Afghanistan, constructed around the 5th century AD.

PHOTO: Bala Hissar, 2010 (Afghanistan) by LarkAbroad, used by permission. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shakila Azizzada was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1964. During her middle school and university years in Kabul, she started writing stories and poems, many of which were published in magazines. After studying Law at Kabul University,  Shakila read Oriental Languages and Cultures at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, where she now lives. She regularly publishes tales, short stories, plays and poems. Her first collection of poems, Herinnering aan niets (Memories About Nothing), was published in Dutch and Dari. Several of her plays have been both published and performed, including De geur van verlangen (The Scent of Desire). She frequently performs her poems at well-established forums in The Netherlands and abroad.  

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