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Dr. Raziq Roien was born in the town of Balkh in the land of Khorasan (present day Afghanistan), in 1951. He is Chairman of the Afghanistan Cultural Association in Bulgaria, since 2001. He taught at Kabul University, wrote textbooks on Persian (Dari) culture and research papers on modern Dari poetry. He was Secretary of the Union of Afghanistan Writers. His poems have been translated into Russian, Czech, English and other languages. He holds a PhD from the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. Recognized refugee in Bulgaria since 1995. Winner of the 2006 Peace Prize of the Afghanistan Civil Society Forum for his book of poems Mulberry and Silk Years, an excerpt of which appears here.

From the Years of Mulberries and Silk

Those years of pearly mulberries,

the silken years of prosperity,

with a house in the small town of Andkhui

a town with the names of beloved ones:

Shanba-Odina.

And a sand-covered stretch of land, like a river of gold –

each one a mirror,

with its wind-swept roads, no robbers, no sleepwalkers,

and the familiar fragrance of sesame blossom.

The Turkmen – all dignified, all kindhearted to the last man!

* * *

In the middle of the town

the tiny shops

with the cheerful tradesmen,

their fruit bathed in light,

and the strong scent

of vegetation in the life-giving juices of the unfertilized earth.

* * *

In the middle of the town

the Bobo Wali mosque with its little fountain,

the water running from the spout –

with the fishes darting and playing around –

tiny little.

Our childish hands

scooping up the water, pouring it into the earthen pots

of our unruly joy,

at daybreak and dusk,

over the azure roofs gathering the sunrays

of the month of Tir.

The days are carrying our kites,

the town filling the towering skies above with roar and laughter –

the sound of our desires.

* * *

Now I remember the celebrations for the New Year, Nawruz:

those wonderful wrestlers from Qaisar

or Almar

in the clean fragrant air of the month Farvardin,

their arms like steel, clasping the opponent round the waist,

circling each other like lions.

At the end, one of the two will be the winner,

drawing a cry of glory from the crowd.

* * *

The sweet dreams that we see, awaiting the new day –

and maybe early in the morning,

before the eyes of friend or foe,

that ‘winner’ - the wrestler - will be knocked down on the ground,

and then forever

he’ll stride freely, carefree and happy,

with no one breaking his pitcher with a sling –

quite unjustly.

* * *

The sweet dreams that we see, awaiting the new day:

that’s how our life will take us to the very end.

Without you, far away from you, Andkhui!

Now it’s too late, I’m fast asleep inside my sadness.

Without the presence of that ‘winner’,

without the presence of my friend from Balkh!

Now there’s a lump of bitterness inside my throat,

in the green meadows of the West,

the stranger that I am away from home.

Sometimes I think of life

with sorrow:

oh, what a children’s play it was!

* * *

The people coming here from my country,

from Balkh or Darwoz,

ask me gloomily:

Where have the carefree days of play and triumph gone without you?

What shall I reply?

Or maybe it’s the punishment for a committed sin –

the bread is stale today, the bread we used to eat upon the lap of earth!

Sofia - 2005

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