Landays, the Afghan folk poem

The cover of Poetry's June 2013 issue, which is dedicated to landays, the two-line Afghan folk poem.
The cover of Poetry's June 2013 issue, which is dedicated to landays, the two-line Afghan folk poem.

In this month's issue of Poetry magazine (only $4) you can learn more about Afghan Pashtun women, and their lives with men, than you will ever learn from reading 1000 news articles or talking to a 1000 soldiers returning from Afghanistan. Poetry, like music, has a unique power to resonate, to get inside and vibrate your heart and mind, to thump the back of your eyeballs and wake you to knew feelings, thoughts, and visions.

This issue of Poetry is devoted to the landay, a type of Afghan folk poem. Each landay is only two lines long with 22 syllables. The introductory essay by Eliza Griswold (who also translated all the poems, with help from many Afghans) gives you all the details.

Here are eight of my favorite landays:

Be black with gunpowder or blood red,
but don't come home whole and disgrace my bed.

Daughter, in America the river isn't wet.
Young girls learn to fill their jugs on the internet.

When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers.
When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.

Making love to an old man
is like fucking a shriveled corn stalk blackened by mold.

My love is fair as an American soldier can be.
To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.

My Nabi was shot down by a drone.
May God destroy your sons, America, you murdered my own.

May God destroy the Taliban and end their wars.
They've made Afghan women widows and whores.

I study philosophy and social theory at the University of South Florida. I am also a photographer, map lover and sometimes poet.