A celebration of Persian voices and talent

Excerpt from “A Homeland, A Woman” by Mahbouba Ibrahimi, translated by Fatemeh Shams


Excerpt from
“A Homeland, A Woman”
by Mahbouba Ibrahimi

Translated by Fatemeh Shams
“Beloved homeland, / Wild, beautiful woman, / We did not deserve this war!”

Excerpt from “A Homeland, A Woman”
by Mahbouba Ibrahimi
Translated by Fatemeh Shams

A woman
Abandoned by everyone
Is gunpowder, stuck in a weapon’s throat.
In the mountain’s chest.
How can I write poems
With so much molten stone
In my throat?

Beloved homeland,
Wild, beautiful woman,
We did not deserve this war!

Your portion should have been
Caravans loaded with radiance and silk,
The echo of the Rubab.
In the mountains,
The snows of Salang,
The fragrant waters of the Helmand,
And strong, kind men
Who would give you children,
Love and wisdom pouring like light from their eyes.

This is not what I deserved.

My poems should have smelled like pine and silverberry
Ringing with the jingle of bracelets during the Attan[1]
Tasting like milk from sheep who roam freely over green pastures.

One day they will grow green again,
All these dreams
We bury underground.


[1]Attan is a Pashtun word which refers to national dance of Afghanistan.


Mahbouba Ibrahimi was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 1977. Her family moved to Iran in the wake of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when she was only two years old. She joined the Pearl of Dari (Anjoman-e Dorr-e Dari), a literary association for Persian speaking Afghan poets in exile. Ibrahimi rose to prominence as a distinguished young Afghan woman poet in the city of Mashhad before moving to Tehran. She immigrated to Sweden in 2011, where she currently works in the city of Uppsala as a Persian language instructor and translator. Ibrahimi has published three poetry collections, Winds Are My Sisters (Tehran, 1990), Majnun, Layli, and the Children (Kabul, 2017), and You Look at My Mouth in the Mirror (Kabul, 2021). She is regarded as one of the leading voices of modern poetry of Afghanistan and mostly writes in free verse style (she’r-e sepid) about womanhood, patriarchy, and exilic identity. Her poems have been so far translated into English and Swedish.


Fatemeh Shams

Fatemeh Shams is the author of two books of poetry in Persian, the first of which won the Jaleh Esfahani Award for the best young Iranian poet in 2012, and a critical monograph in English on poetry and politics, A Revolution in Rhyme (Oxford UP). When They Broke Down the Door (Mage), a collection of her poems translated by Dick Davis, won the 2016 Latifeh Yarshater Award from the Association for Iranian Studies. Her poetry has been featured in the Poetry Foundation website, PBS NewsHour, and the Penguin Book of Feminist Writing, among other venues. She is currently assistant professor of Modern Persian Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter @shazzshams.

Translator's Photo by Dirk Skiba. FEATURED IMAGE by Zabihullah Habibi via Unsplash.