When your star is unseen in this desolate sky,
your despair itself becomes a star.
My twin, the steadfast sun, and I
both grasp its far-flung brilliance.
In a land where water is locked up
in the very depths of desiccated rocks,
the trees are ashamed of their wizened fruits.
The honest orchard is laid waste —
such a bloodied carpet
is spread before the future.
Yesterday, leaning on my cane,
I returned from the trees’ cremation.
Today, I search the ashes
for my lost, homeless phoenix.
Perhaps it was you who shadowed me,
perhaps it was only my shadow.
Even though the lucky men in my land
lack stars in the heavens, lack shadows on the earth
they welcome any stars
that grace their devastated sky.
O, my friend, my only friend,
turn your anguish into constellations!
From The Wolf, no.11, 2005/06
Literal versions by Yama Yiri. Partaw Naderi was imprisoned in the notorious Pul-e-Charki prison for three years in the 1970s shortly after he’d begun to write poetry. He is now regarded as one of the leading modernist poets in Afghanistan.
Translated by Sarah Maguire