Literary Expressions of Afghan-Americans in Diaspora

Literary Expressions of Afghan-Americans in Diaspora

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 literary works of Afghan-Americans, Tamim Ansary's extraordinary book,
West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story, and Khaled Husseini's two outstanding books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns have successfully crossed over to the mainstream American Literature--Khaled Husseini's The Kite Runner is the "Required School Reading" in most American Schools and Colleges--.

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.
Copyright © Qais Arsala 2003

Kingdom of Icicles
By Qais Arsala

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?

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

The beloved

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"
by Qais Arsala
Jan.-March 1999

the winds of reason and logic have disturbed the volcanic thoughts of the artist,
he shall not dance with that spicy pizzaz that once defined him
to stare endlessly into the infinite sea as 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
"ma chee guna kardaim baba jaan,
tu mera 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...

her kiss,
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 caps as the rat race against the hourglass filters through the naked sun... nourishment of the afflicted soul with a dash of 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
infinite abundance...

The Horns of the Tiger
By Qais Arsala
January-March 2000

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
to dream
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.

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Thank you for visiting Maulana Rumi Online, a blog dedicated entirely to the life, works and teachings of Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi better known simply as Rumi here in our beloved America. Just as a memory refresher, all articles, e-books, images, links and reading materials listed in this Blog are solely for Educational purposes. This Blog is designed and maintained by yours truly, your comments, critiques or suggestions are quite welcome and greatly appreciated. As for my own Rumi Translations, you are welcome to copy and use them as long as it's not for commercial purposes. For best viewing, please try this Blog on Google Chrome Browser. This is a very long Blog though, so please make sure to use the Scroll To Top or Bottom Buttons at the left side, or Back To Top Button at the bottom right corner of your screen for smooth navigation. If you have any question, comment, critique or suggestion, please contact me by clicking the Contact Box embedded at the right middle corner. As Rumi would say, "Come, come, whoever you are, come back again.."!

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