Khaled Hosseini, author of widely read and admired book, 'The Kite Runner'.
Tamim Ansary, author of 'West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story'.
Literary Expressions of Afghan-Americans in Diaspora
According to The United Sates Census Bureau, around 300000 Afghans currently live in US, of whom around 66000 are either first or second generation Afghan-Americans. The literary expressions of Afghan-Americans are rich, diverse, and mainly deal with the nostalgic and fading memories of a distant land they once called home.
Amongst the contemporary Afghan-American poets, the passionate and deeply nostalgic poetry of talented female poet Zohra Saed , and the hugely talented Qais Arsala's outstanding poetic expressions of pain, nostalgia, and redemption stand out as the true representations of contemporary Afghan-American literature in our beloved America.
Nomad's Market: Flushing Queens By Zohra Saed
Two hours by train from Brooklyn to wander in shops named after lost cities, enamored by bags full of overpriced ingredients to my parents’ memories.
Holidays have been lonely since the swarm of children tugging at my elbows grew up and went to high school. Even lonelier since I grew out of frocks and into ankle-grazing dresses.
The shops are obsessed with maps here and enlarged pictures from Afghanistan. I can sketch the map in the air from memory: It’s shape a human heart.
An immense pop singer winks at me by the meat freezer, Ahmad Zahir, who may as well have been Elvis, guards the freshness of halal.
I remember him from pirate videotapes passed from neighbor to neighbor until his face was a white blur on the screen. But my mother and all seven aunts danced in the living room. In the next room, the children were hypnotized by Bugs Bunny.
Grand mosques with turquoise domes gleam above plastic bins of tea leaves, saffron, and dried violets, blessing the shop with prosperity.
The small television placed on the counter at an angle run musical videos of beautiful women singing folk songs from Jalalabad and Kandahar, decked in gold, eyes swept with surma. They keep their eyes averted and carry themselves as if being arranged in a marriage. There is no dancing here. Most likely, it is their husbands who play the tabla behind them.
Strands of home dance through aisles of Pepsi and Heinz, chocolates and cigarettes.
The shopkeeper’s son circles around me, pretending to rearrange layers of velvet prayer mats. He has spotted another exile...
The following poems are by the hugely talented Afghan-American poet, Qais Arsala. I'd like to publicly thank Qais jan for responding to my email request, and granting me permission to publish his poems.
Hell (Qeeyamat) by Qais Arsala10-08-2001 Written after the U.S. Attacks
The skies are screaming
In thunderous rage
For every thud
My heart breaks for the maimed without the wheelchair*
For every flash on the CNN screen
I think of the child holding on so close to her mother's dress
Trembling with fear of the inevitable
Jalalabad and Kabul on Fire
As the "collateral" damage scrambles in a desperate attempt
To break free of this hell called The "Taliban"
I close my eyes only
To see the tears of my shattered land
Attempting to break free
Of these chains of the Pakistani and Arab infidels
Oh my beloved Afghanistan
Outsiders may scar the landscape
But they shall never break our spirit and our pride!!!
*There are 500,000 amputees in Afghanistan with little or no access to wheelchairs.
Moonlit memories of a yesterday where existence was only within the core of the heart
I look up to the infant for the wisdom of many ages where the Sultans and the Emirs Danced with the wicked fools of the Charcoaled moon as they gulped the sweet, refreshing wines of eternity . . .
Demystified Calamity By Qais Arsala
Oh how have I lost the seeds of innocence these sacred leaves falling and aching for another way knowing when to triage the serum of truth . cursed is the smile within which lies dormant, the mutation of a tear Truth is a virus perched upon that branches of angst What is the Barometer of chance that the collapse of frozen embers will set you free?
Placebo by Qais Arsala
Fractured mosaic stare at last to lament for nothing more, love commands us to harness the odor of guilt Nourishing spears of destiny dismantles any illusions of
everything is chaos Turmoil abound history of insignificant embraces to the music of deafening silence
Death is now to these tired eyes i wasted time not breaking down these walls But the truths themselves Oh they beckon and wail I’m a slave of my own mind
Anger seems insignificant in the vastness of life Liquefied Dust singing eulogies of me
Ode to the demons inside tormenting and taunting my ascension out of this cage of straightjacket flavored nights.
"Atish Fishon" ("Volcano") by Qais Arsala Jan.-March 1999 Lemar-Aftaab
the winds of reason and logic havedisturbed the volcanic thoughts of the artist, he shall not dance with that spicypizzaz that once defined him to stare endlessly into the infinite seaas the brow ridges of the skull creates a portrait of intense proportions...
those were the days of yesteryear
as he lay weeping at his fathers
grave: "ma chee guna kardaim baba jaan,
tu mera bogo...ma cheee guna kardaim?"
silent screams to no avail,
close the eyes to imagine those days of pouring rains where the
aroma of the Pacific cafes accented the deep disturbance inside...
to plant a seed in the garden of affection,
only to be wounded so badly by the same delicate flower..
gazing in devotion into her deep drowsy
eyes puts me in a trance beyond
any realm of imagination...
drowning in an absolute eternal consciousness
like the crazed laughter of the madmen waving
their canes at the setting sun...
let us shield ourselves with our digital
cell phone umbrellas from the monsoons of
the neon fortune cookies...
once a glass is broken
we cannot even begin to resurrect what it was,
we can only attempt to replicate a memory of it...
her smile,photosynthesis to the weakened heart... her wink,a potent magical spell upon the rivers of humanity...
a venom of ecstasy injected to the
malnourished naive spirit of the poet...
i would much rather be a fool drowning in the
seas of affection, than a wise man
who is always left to wander...
strawberry flavored pencil capsas the rat race against the hourglassfilters through the naked sun... nourishment of the afflicted soul with a dashof supremely enhanced DNA...i cannot justify the insanity within...
i loved her,
i adored her,
yet i had to set her free from the cage of
The Horns of the Tiger
By Qais Arsala
January-March 2000 Lemar-Aftaab
Straight-jacket memories Of those morphine flavored nights These tears of blood can almost sedate the scarred and maimed souls Desperate cries from the voiceless, forgotten children Are befallen upon deaf ears of blind savages who are disguised as Liberators Shrapnel hurricane turning a sage into a madman And a madman into a prophet I try to close my eyes to imagine a time where the delicate showperaks outnumbered the polished Russian rockets I try to imagine those days of the innocent kids playing "tushla" and danda kilak and chasing the gowzanboors off the streets of Kabul I try to reach for the untouchable To scream for what cannot be...
My vision of Afghanistan By Qais Arsala
Holding on tightly to my mother's dress
fearing another bombing,
and flying jets.
Getting together with
the kids on Kartey Sey
my only dream is to be a "shaheed"
and blow myself up
with a couple of Russians.
I smell the
naringes of Jalabad
Once in a while,
I gaze into
the infinite sky
of the childhood
that was robbed.
In my hour of sadness,
I am consoled with the knowledge
that in my death,
I will meet my grandfathers
in the streets of my home,
my beloved Afghanistan.