by Dr.sharif Faez

Latif  Nazemi

A Modern Afghan Poet and Critic

 

 

 Latif Nazemi is a leading modern Farsi/Dari poet, a great literary critic and scholar. He was born in Herat in 1947, graduated from Kabul University and later taught at the Faculty of Letters of Kabul University. 

Nazemi worked for Kabul Radio as a literary critic and also prepared a popular literary program called "the Golden Scale." He also taught Persian literature at Hambolt University in Berlin, where he studied linguistics. He has received several awards and an honorary doctorate.

Like hundreds of other Afghan intellectuals, Nazemi had to leave his homeland after the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan.  Currently he lives in Frankfurt.

He has published three collections of poetry titled The Shadow and Lagoon, Wind in the Lantern, and From Orchard to Lyric. His major work in literary criticism is Modern Dari Literature in Afghanistan. Like Wasif Bakhtari, he is considered a master of modern Dari poetry and a highly revered literary figure in both classical and modern literature. He is also credited with introducing a modern ghazal form in modern Farsi/Dari literature.  

A number of his poems have been translated into French, German, Russian, Arabic, Polish, and Mongolian. He has also written extensively about classical and modern Persian literature.      

 

 

Covenant

 

(To Rumi)

 

In the blue moments of illumination

I am coming from Balkh to Iconium

the city of water and mirror

I see your green figure

                      Filling the frame of the historyís gateway

I see the poem of your voice

                      In the ears of the dervishes

like the cloud reading the Koran

          In the ears of barren lands

          In the ears of dried gardens and forests

In the green season of green lyricism

In the season of poetry, love, and chanting

                      A drop of tear hiding in lashes

                                            In the mourning of the passing seasons

Here, I am at your resting place

-In the sacred zenith of Covenant-

on the golden camel of faith

I see you sitting Godlike

On the lips of the red song of "I am the Truth"

From the domed houses of Merw

To the cobbled streets of Grenada

They are chanting your songs

Like village roosters at dawn

 

 

We Will Return

 

We shall return

To turn our elegies into an epitaph

On the cemetery of the grape orchards of the north

On the corpse of the olive fields of the east

And on the funeral of the pines of the west

 

We shall return to sing the song of stone

On the tomb of Buddha

To plant a basket of anemones

On the sand-hills of Bamiyan

Someday it will grow, I know

 

We shall return

To mourn the anniversary of the pillage of our books

And the anniversary of the shredding of our poems  

 

We shall return

To seize the funeral of freedom

From the geography of flog and turban

And fill the hungry mouths of guns

with dirt and gravel   

 

Oh my traveling beloved,

Let me hold your hand

So that we may hurry to revisit Rabia

And dress the wounded throat of the poetry lady

With the black silk of your tresses

 

We shall return

With olive branches hanging from our laps

With our fingers twisted

Our knapsacks stuffed with the gold coins of love

From the green lyrics of love

From the songs of red canaries

Finally we shall return

                                          (Frankfurt 2002)      

 

The Lagoon and Shadow

 

Behind that old peevish-looking rock

away from the rice fields  

among thistles and thorns,

lies an old lagoon, desolate and dark

 

Never seen by a shaft of the lunar light 

far from the heavenís reach and eye   

the lagoon, haggard and consumed,

has fallen into a deep sleep

 

The finger branch of the old poplar

sometimes touches the water face

the ferine and howling night wind

sometimes slaps on the lagoon face   

 

Black lizards crawl and coil

around the cold grassesí arms

bats, spreading out their wings,

clog the path to the torpid firth

 

The thirsty leaves of willows and oaks

drench their lips in the lagoonís bowl

the frogs on the shores of runnels and rills

sing an insipid song

 

Tiny and tenacious crawling weeds

tangle around one anotherís neck

the lagoonís weeding and wild flora

spread into the air a pungent aroma 

 

The reed daggers, dispirited and spent,

deepen their legs into the lagoon

raise high their heads into the sky 

fearing the roaring winds

not knowing, however, the ducks' seditious tricks

 

Every night a shadow, creeping out of the oaks,

stalks near the stagnant firth

the bats fly away from their sweet dreams

and old vultures swirl and hover around  

 

A discarded specter of the night,

tired of the routine, but full of sin,

I whisper into the lagoon

the rueful tale of my dark desire.                          (Herat,1345)

 

Orchard Dreams of Grass

 

It's a strange time!

They shout war

from every minaret

from every pulpit.

They attack love.

from under every dome

And steal bread and freedom.

 

Listen, do you hear?

How softly

day and night cry,

with the minaret, the dome and the pulpit?

 

It's a strange time!

The belief police at every mosque

smells belief in your mouth.

Trimmers at every crossroad

measure belief in your beard's height.

It's a strange time.

A time when the spring

is hailed with dishes of gunpowder

And the tree,

                      is the earth's naked sigh.

And poverty

is the seasonís common fruit.

 

Tell the swallow not to trust

another branch,

which may be another cage.

another tree,

which may be a guillotine for swallows. 

 

It's a strange time!

A time when children

have no dolls to play with.

And the guards,

from behind the garden wall

take the winds to protect the flowers;

hurting memories of the pine and juniper.

 

May your life be short!

your luck doomed!

your palace of plunder ruined!  

 

 

Another Will

 

If someday I have an epitaph,

Inscribe on it these words:

He was a night street chandelier.

Alas, he died before burning! 

 

If someday I have an epitaph,

inscribe on it these words:

He was a good news from the red sun.

Alas, he set before glowing!

 

If someday I have an epitaph,

inscribe on it these words:

He was an exile of the alien island

with scars of the dagger of loneliness.

Alas, he was martyred before dying! 

 

 

Poem of Divine

 

(They say silence is a sign of consent)

 

Silence is the susurration of untold words

Silence is like sound

Silence is the silent song of grass and flowers

Silence is the fury of words and the strike of letters

Silence is not the false calm before the storm

Silence is itself storm

Silence is itself scream

Silence is itself sound

 

Silence is the verse of revelation at the dawn of love

Silence is the verse of light in the night of illumination

Silence is the poem of the Divine

 

How so many years I asked you:

Do you love me?

You remained silent and closed your lips

And others said:

Oh man, how lucky!

Silence is the same as acquiescence

 

 

Death of a Bird

 

The birds flew off these windows

The crickets died pining for boughs

I know the meaning of red death--

Words of love in the throat