THE WAY OF THESE TIMES

Photograph: Helen Brown

Reunion in a guest house in Kabul.

Four years later you give me an Afghan carpet.
Hand made in Herat.
Roll it out by the fern frost window and sip green tea
and tell me of your daughters
the Way These Times
have foiled their paths to school.
And now the year splutters through Buhare wood smoke
and you say it is Hopeless.
Even though the war is ‘won’ in the messianic
light of an embassy in Wazir
and I nod and remember children
playing shrapnel lines and see
the Way These Times
have honed your face and cracked a tooth,
and the shabby shalwar kameez
and the worlds that bring us together again,
in a guest house in Kabul, shift to silence.
We shake hands. I thank you for the carpet.
The steel gate divides your way back
to the Hazara district – and my way out.
‘See you again in a peaceful Afghanistan, inshallah.’
The chokidor stamps his feet and slides the bolt.
It is snowing.
Beyond the wall clouds obscure the mountains.
I wonder if my plane will leave
Tomorrow.

This poem was Long Listed for the National Poetry Competition 2020
“I worked in Romania, then qualified as a social worker and have worked in China, Outer Mongolia, Canada, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Nepal and briefly in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea. That was with VSO, the French organisation Humanity and Inclusion, Relief International and the Red Cross.” 

 

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