Old Days

When I think of my childhood, I remember the old days
when I was a little girl, with black braided hair like goat horns.
In summer, my five siblings and I would sit on a wooden bed,
the huge bed my father made in the middle of the yard.
First, we threw little rugs on the bed, then fought to get
the best corner. The breeze was our playmate;
she brushed our faces, cooled our hearts,
slapped the mosquitoes and flies.
Like a scented friend, it carried the aroma of
flowers and wheat from farther fields.
Our house, in a vast meadow with a few other houses,
was a little flower in a bare garden, but we didn’t
feel alone; God was also our neighbor.

We laughed on the wooden bed, drank black tea,
and played with marbles as our white dog jumped happily,
circling the bed like a sacred shrine. Rolling on the dusty ground
like it was a sheet of velvet, I loved her small puppies.
I played with them, swirling them around by
their little paws and bursting into laughter.
They were like balls of cotton and I kissed their paws and
caressed them with love.
Some neighbors said, “Dogs are Najis, filthy.”
But I treasured them.
They played with us, they protected our house,
barking at strangers and enemies,
their yelps small and screechy, but their will was strong.
How could anyone call them “unclean”?
They were little angels. God wouldn’t create filthy things.

Sometimes we didn’t have bread in the house,
I was hungry, so mother gave me a piece of dried bread, and said
“Share it with the dog. She is also hungry.”
Her kindness reminds me of when she cooked okra with Kichiri,
We sat on the wooden bed and we ate in the moonlight.
We didn’t have electricity, but our hearts were bright and happy.
As we laughed, our teeth shined with the stars. We
named the stars to own them. With my eyes like a basket,
I picked them and then they escaped from my eyes and entered my heart.
In my best childhood memory we were all together,
me, my siblings, mother and father,
when we weren’t broken by war, or separated,
each thrown to a corner of the earth.
I was happiest then. With free minds and happy hearts,
we laughed together and adored simple things.
On the wooden bed we were kings and queens.

By Mahnaz, courtesy of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project