This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Diana Khoi Nguyen. About the poem, Nguyen writes: “Buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan, is a game in which teams on horseback compete to gain possession of a headless animal carcass (typically a goat) and bring it to a scoring area.”
A brother fastens his helmet. His son does the same.
He who has fifty horses backs no one
but a son, a warlord says from his warm compound
where the warlord is running for vice president.
Time is incestuous this way.
1979: the Soviets shot each hoof, every head. Death
saw no danger in being nude. Then the Taliban:
they allowed the game, but rode the mares in summer
until they rode no more. She who is not consoled
lasts longer than the fever of a horse
whose teeth flare out in prayer, Khyber blade
in the crosshatch hands of her rider, hands from a life
of whipping. Whose blood is on the ground is she
whose god is a wrestler who trains
beneath the rising moon whose rider scythes the harvest.
A horse can nudge a man with her chest,
come down without bending her knees. She knows what he wants
she knows what he wants her to do.
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