Once Upon A Time
in memory of Leila Sarahat Roshani
Granny used to say
always keep your magic sack
tucked inside your ribcage.
Don’t say the sun’s worn out,
don’t say it’s gone astray.
Say, I’m coming back.
May the White Demon
protect and watch over you.
Oh, daughter of the dawn,
perhaps this sorry tale,
stuck in the mud,
was of your doing.
Take the comb from the sack,
throw it in the Black Demon’s path:
seven jungles will grow at his feet.
Don’t say heaven’s too far,
earth’s too hard. Don’t throw the mirror
if you fear the sea and her nymphs.
Don’t say there was, don’t say there wasn’t,
trust in the god of fairytales.
May Granny’s soul rest in peace.
Give the mirror to Golnar’s mother
who, down by the charred vineyards,
dreams of birds and fish.
Don’t say the rooftop’s sun’s too brief.
Say, I’m coming and this time,
forget love’s foolish griefs.
Shake out the sack.
In the name of the White Demon,
burn that strand of hair.
once upon a time …?
Once upon a time there was
a girl in whose long, endless dreams,
an old woman with white braids,
forever telling beads, would pray:
‘May the Shomali Plain still fill with song
and through the ceilings
of its ruined homes, let light pour in.’
Once Upon A Time is © Shakila Azizzada.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Zuzanna Olszewska.The final translated version of the poem is by Mimi Khalvati
Once Upon A Time: this poem refers to a fairytale in which the hero sets off to fight the Black Demon, aided by the White Demon and the magic powers of a sack with a mirror, a comb and a strand of hair. Fairytales traditionally start with the refrain, ‘There was one, there wasn’t one, apart from God, there was no one.’
View from Afar
I’m left again with no one standing behind me,
ground pulled from under my feet.
Even the sun’s shoulders are beyond my reach.
My navel chord was tied
to the apron strings of custom,
my hair first cut over a basin of edicts.
In my ear, a prayer was whispered:
‘May the earth behind and beneath you
be forever empty’.
However, just a little higher,
there’ll always be a land
purer than any land Satan could wish on me.
With the sun’s hand on my shoulder,
I tear my feet away, a thousand and one times,
from the things I leave behind me.
View From Afar is © Shakila Azizzada
Translated by Zuzanna Olszewska and Mimi Khalvati.
If it weren’t for the clouds,
pick the stars
one by one
from this brief sky,
in your ever ruffled hair
‘I’m like a silk rug –
the older it gets,
the lovelier it grows,
two or three naughty kids
peed on it.’
Am I finally here?
Then let me spread
the Haft Seen tablecloth
in the middle of Dam Platz.
Even if it rains,
The Unknown Soldier
and a flock of pigeons
will be my guests.
Haft Seen is © Shakila Azizzada.
The literal translation of this poem was made by Zuzanna Olszewska.
The final translated version of the poem is by Mimi Khalvati.
Shakila Azizzada is a poet from Afghanistan who writes in Dari. Shakila Azizzada was born in Kabul in 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. Her poems are unusual in their frankness and delicacy, particularly in the way she approaches intimacy and female desire, subjects which are rarely adressed by women poets writing in Dari.
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 and her second collection will be published in 2012. 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.