Her name, Nazaneen, along
with a thousand other caresses,
burns in her mother's throat
like a flame, a flame.
Her chest may be pierced
but it's a treasure chest
of a thousand hidden endearments.
Laaa ellah! The mullah
has strayed from the path.
A bed of sweet basil is spreading
its scent through the air and
La ella! ... his oath stops short.
Her mother's fingers
are smoothing her tangled curls
back behind her ears,
strand by strand.
Propped on her mother's knee,
her head and neck, lying limp,
meld in a lap of flowers.
Nazaneen! her mother wails,
throwing her hands up, hitting
her head as, clump by torn-out clump,
white hairs like wheat and barley
sprout between her fingers.
The white sheet slips.
The chest wound, the girlish breasts
laid bare, renew her mother's anguish.
La ellah! says the mullah.
turns her head.
The scent of camphor
mingles with the mother's plaints:
The literal translation of this poem was made by Zuzanna Olszewska
The final translated version of the poem is by Mimi Khalvati
Recitation: this poem alludes to the many girls killed during the civil war in Kabul, 1992-1996.
La ellah!: suggesting annoyance, an abbreviation of La ilaha illa Allah wa Muhammad rasoul Allah, ‘There is no God but God and Muhammad His Prophet'. Those who use the abbreviation, ‘There is no God' are unintentionally blasphemous, though the mother here uses it literally.
© Poetry Translation Centre 2004-2014