I Can’t Say I Know Kabul Anymore

and other poems

Kabul. Photo Credit : Zahra Fatimie

I Can’t Say I know Kabul Anymore

the Kabul I knew
saw girls laughing
as they rushed into schools
backs aching from the weight of books

now I see their ghosts
screaming at the gates
of the schools that are shut
backs heavy with iron-wrought chains

how can I say I know Kabul?
a ghost of a city
where women are dragged off streets
for daring to be seen

this Kabul is no place I know
it’s a prison for women
that are hunted at every turn
until they’re left with no choice but death

this Kabul is stained by blood
while the murderers lie content
and pretend the word “suicide”
relieves them of blame

how can I say I know Kabul,
when all it has become
is a mass grave
of the dreams that Afghan women dared to dream.

Almond blossoms in Zahra’s childhood home in Kabul.

My Childhood Home

is a mausoleum of tears
sorrow and anger that I hate
to see upon my return
but my childhood home
is a great deceiver and
she holds me in her grasp

to make me watch as I once toddled
and my parents laughed tears
she tightens her grip and turns
my head silencing a scream
so that I watch a young girl
with a scratch on her knee

being held up by love,
so, so much love, she forces me
to watch a teenage girl
at a crossroads with herself
but never doubting that her
father’s ruffle of her hair

and chuckle at her indolent squawk
is a form of love too potent
for words while her mother’s kiss
and widened eyes of exaggerated shock
exclaiming her daughter’s beauty
screams of that love

that made me who I am today

my childhood home
may be a mausoleum of tributes
to the shots that haunt me
on the sidewalks of crowded streets
and the slams of books on tables
that bring to mind memories too harsh

for friends to understand
but my childhood home
is a museum of curated
beautiful works of joys and sorrows
and the love of my parents
that has made me who I am today.

Zahra Fatimie

Zahra Fatimie was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. She began writing at a young age but started sharing her work in 2021. She is now eighteen years old and no longer resides in Afghanistan but continues to write about her people and country.

3 thoughts on “I Can’t Say I Know Kabul Anymore”

  1. Awww My sweet Ada! This is your Khala Tooba .. I loved your writings.. your piece is nicely written full of emotion and expression. Loop up the greet work!

  2. I very much enjoyed reading these poems – your perceptive grasp of metre and rythm makes both pieces flow very organically, and some of your language choices are outrageously good (‘backs heavy with iron-wrought chains’ and ‘the indolent squak’ were two I particularly enjoyed). The simplicity of the form doesn’t detract from the complexity of the memories either.

    There’s a wealth of sensory data here that is really evocative of a specific time and place – there’s a subtle yet tangible bitersweet quality to the pieces that belies your age: I will definitely be checking out your future submissions, keep up the excellent work!

  3. I’m in awe. Usually, writers tend to squeeze in fancy and esoteric adjectives every two sentences as a sort of Hail Mary, but that’s very clearly not the case here. I feel that the language is straightforward and unpretentious, making your delivery that much more impactful. That’s not to say that the words used aren’t sophisticated and appropriate, because they absolutely are.

    I particularly enjoyed the bittersweetness of My Childhood Home, largely because I can relate to it. Like most children who grew up in a non-white family/culture, growing up can be, well, less than smooth-sailing. It wasn’t easy for me to love that part of my childhood, but I’ve grown to think of it fondly– both the good and the bad. The last stanza really nails it in the head.

    I could go on forever because I’ve got so much to say about these two poems alone, but I’m pretty sure as soon as I hit 300 words, I’ll qualify for a restraining order. Thank you for sharing your work with us!

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