Two Landays from Poetry Magazine

The two short poems below are landays, folk couplets of Afghanistan. They have been taken from Poetry Magazine; I do encourage you to read more about their authors and their composition. The first is by one Basbibi, whose husband froze to death in a refugee camp. She proclaims herself “the mother of landays.” Judging from this poem, she can back up that claim:

Separation brought this kind of grief:
it made itself a mullah and me the village thief.

Eliza Griswold provides a note: “In Pashtun society, the village mullah is all-powerful and his word can doom any villager. The metaphor… is that separation is also all-powerful and unjust.” Part of the appeal of this poem is that the note isn’t really necessary. Separation brought a “kind of grief” that was not just externally authoritative and commanding. The power of religious authority, of piety, is felt within one, even when one knows they’ve done nothing wrong. Separation and the grief it causes cannot happen without the speaker and their agency. There’s a guilt that is felt perhaps most especially in the face of things that cannot be helped. The speaker casts her grief, something within her, as dominating her and making her nothing but the village thief, nearly exiled.

The tragedy is that this landay makes sense. Considering the full context of this poem, the thief is no less than someone who wants some control over his own life. He risks exile not just because he is desperate, but because he wants to turn his desperation on its head. There’s a strange dependency that forms on what can kill one. The feeling that life has passed one by starts turning into the reality that life has passed one by not because the feeling simply eats away at one. Rather, we react to it, we try to be stronger, we think things can be better. That doesn’t quite work; “this kind of grief” is more firmly in control, we’re trying to merely steal from it. For myself, I’m never quite clear on how we get past certain things. Some things I’ll never get past.

The other landay I want to look more closely at was posted on Facebook by Eimal Dorani. You can visit his landay page here: This landay is about love and being away from the fatherland:

Make a hole in Facebook and plant me one.
Tell your mother, “I’ve been bitten by a scorpion.”

It sounds so ludicrous to speak of Facebook with a plant metaphor. How ridiculous is it to believe Facebook a place where growth could happen? We have to think of ourselves as poisoned to think such a thing; we have to use excuses we would throw at our parents to keep them from sticking their nose in our relationships. But this is what it is like to be in exile, to be a wanderer. Home is where you can love.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.