“Timbuktu” and “A Place to Live” by Sahar Muradi


Salaam alaikum

Once, when I was a girl

I ni sógóma?

I believed in morning,

like a hot, yellow apple

Manda nabasheyn

We never tired. Father said,

God is good

Héré sira?

We slept in twos and threes

Famil chatoor ast?

It was a matter of everyone

Sómógó bédi?

Someone had work, someone didn’t

Someone always offered something

Owlada khoob astan?

We were kids but we knew everything

We belonged to everyone

I sigi na

After prayer, there was tea

After tea, there was fruit


Mother taught us to draw our feet

To let others go first

Aw ni tile

In time, day gave way to night

Jan e tan jor ast?

Someone would show up asking for my body

Then another

I dógó cé ka kéné

We would exchange brothers

who were not our brothers

Khudaya shukur

The earth met us in different ways

For some, it rained

For others, there wasn’t water for the stones

A barika Allah ye

We thanked God for blessing us

and not our neighbors

Khuda hafez

History was the first to leave

and without a trace

Aw ni wula

Father said the night has hands

Mother reminded me of the apple

Shab bakhair

In the dark

I held nothing


It’s a place to live,

he said

looking out over the cranes

frozen in the sand

like seagulls with still wings

There was the glass whale

standing up in the water

a dolphin facing God

There was the cigarette skyline

blank-faced buildings

tall, white, and widowed

or blue and mirrored

hundreds of them


beaded gloriously gold at night

In between were low cubes of stores

car dealerships, jewelers

and invisible trades

There were shopping malls

with arches and sea life

supermarkets built for disasters

There were convention centers and expos

and festivals that began at sunset

There were museums for other places

There was the old city

with stout white blocks

bleeding with short brown men

who worked construction

There was sudden grass

bougainvillea on the walls

hyacinths in the sand

miles of manicured walks

blue ones and red ones

black-eyed peacocks

and falcons perched on covered hands

There was no trash

There were cars and cars and cars

big tires for the dunes

diamond caps for the night

and boys like him

laughing behind sealed glass


a cape of fine azure

Tall men and women

in white cotton

and black rayon

men with sinful watches

women with silver faces

who loved to shop

There was fresh fruit

bottled water



and prayer on the side of the road

There was refrigeration

There was the Qasba

with its French seats

and flat desserts

a Ferris wheel called The Eye

We went up

and in the glow of the city

before I could say it,

he said,

this is where I grew up

Sahar Muradi is a writer and performer born in Afghanistan and raised in the U.S. She is co-editor, with Zohra Saed, of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature and a co-founder of the Afghan American Artists and Writers Association. Her writing has appeared in Drunken Boat, dOCUMENTA, phati’tude, Green Mountains Review, elsewhere, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. She is the recipient of an Asian American Writers’ Workshop Open City Fellowship, the Himan Brown Creative Writing Award in Poetry, and a Kundiman Poetry Fellowship. Sahar has an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College, an MPA in international development from New York University, and a BA in creative writing from Hampshire College. She lives in New York City.

Links to her work:

Elsewhere Literary Magazine       http://www.elsewherelit.org/muradi/

 Drunken Boat                http://www.drunkenboat.com/db16/muradi-saed

 dOCUMENTA13        http://d13.documenta.de/uploads/tx_publications/105_Muradi-Saed_01.pdf

 On the Issues Magazine   http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/cafe2/article/26

The Poetry Project Newsletter http://poetryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/PPNL-oct-nov-14-FINAL.pdf

Sahar photo1 


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