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Like a Desert Flower

Posted on Sep 14, 2011 by

House in Ruins.Herat


Because this month I am featuring Sakeena Yacoobi’s work at the Afghan Institute for Learning, I went looking for a poem out of Afghanistan. I was delighted to find this one, “Like a Desert Flower,” by Parween Faiz Zadah Malaal, a former journalist and popular woman poet, who lives and writes in the Pashto region of Afghanistan.

Like a desert flower waiting for rain,
like a river-bank thirsting for the touch of pitchers,
like the dawn
longing for light;
and like a house,
like a house in ruins for want of a woman –
the exhausted ones of our times
need a moment to breathe,
need a moment to sleep,
in the arms of peace, in the arms of peace.

I read this poem as a plea. A poet speaking for the people around her – the exhausted ones of our times. In Afghanistan, but perhaps not only in Afghanistan. All the exhausted ones of our times who live, for whatever reason, without peace. And who need it, who wait for it. Like that parched riverbank waiting for water. Or like that house waiting for a woman to restore it.

When I become aware of some of the exhausted ones of our times, even as simply as by thinking of them, or reading a new poem, it places my own intermittent exhaustion (more common now that school has begun again) into a larger perspective. Something about this seems important. It doesn’t necessarily dwarf my own exhaustion – though it could. It’s more like it connects it to something larger than me.

I also feel a connection between this poem and the Machado poem, Last Night As I Was Sleeping. His poem contains some of the water that this poem longs for. And it occurs to me how difficult it must be to connect with any kind of aqueduct of water inside when one lives in the absence of peace.

There are so many different ways to become parched.  And I’m so grateful for water – in all its forms.

Some years ago now, I saw the poet and peace activist, Daniel Berrigan, speak. He kept saying, over and over, that peace is not a quick fix. It takes time. And I’m thinking this morning how the work of Sakeena Yacoobi is not about the quick fix but is about a deep and long-term investment in her country. Like a woman coming upon a house in ruins and deciding to begin the long patient work of doing something about it? Like a woman bringing water to her people?

See also:

Last Night As I Was Sleeping

Replenish at Here We Were

[The literal translation of “Like a Desert Flower” was made by Dawood Azami and the final translated version of the poem is by The Poetry Translation Workshop.]

[Photo of a house in ruins in Herat is from The Telegraph via Associated Press]