An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Spring 2023


Hajar Hussaini
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Hajar Hussaini is an Afghan poet and literary translator. Her poems in Disbound (2022) scrutinize the social, political, and historical traces inherited from one’s language that retrieve a personal history between countries (Afghanistan and the United States) and languages (Persian and English) that has been constantly disrupted and distorted by war, governments, and media.

I’m awakened to an atrocious dream: my sister cuts
her hand                             an extreme amount of mist

              I can’t make out
              the image

                                           the scene has taken place
in the kitchen and as she walks into the living
the innocence of her one question hangs

                          What do you think?

per the word of mouth
the solicitudes and the dis
-figured candidate proceeds

                          At any rate, secure that delicate passage

Uneased, she asks if she could dhl this to my house

                  where I sit on my bed
examining my past and future




Two weeks following the dream

                   a last province falls

                                                          a coward

         renounces the country


the dream

                             follows the fall of a last

                                                      mid-week                                flees
                                                                                       a coward

                                                          two fellows renounce their bodies

                                                          mid                                     dream

                                                                for a delicate passage

                                                                                               precedes the scene

                                                                                                                         of fall

                                                          extreme mist

                                                                                        an imagine

                                                                                                              I examine







              This June in the Bronx with my partner and his oldest friend
              we watched one episode of exterminate all the brutes


              The documents affixed themselves to the members of my family
              haunting me in ways unbeknownst to my lover or the old friend




Why do my people submit to this treatment?

terror jackets

spit motherfucker





I am

that lucky bird

Frying Pan Park




The foundation two years before the takeover registers
that four in ten would leave given the opportunity

            by opportunity

many, possibly, mean a dignified manner of conveyance
dignity, an intriguing practice

            to be off tarmac a given dignity a
            singular opportunity

for those whose command of a foreign language is found to be useful

                                       to write requisition after requisition
                                       claims such as “my so and so” “deserve” a) and b) also c)
                                       hereby I promise not causing you an injury

and for those whose eyes must behold heart-wrenching capture

                                       plane after plane taking off
                                       the burial ground of locals
                                       leaving behind most

            concurrent misfortune




To inhale parallel particles in the air

           my firstborn brother
           —whose healing depression surges
                         across the heart’s bottom—
           abandons Bamiyan
           adieu indigeneity!

           our second sibling
           —whose eyes have taken on
                         the task of his tongue—
           renders fear and welfare
           welcome like a shrine!

           our third a sportsman
           —whose information includes
                         not being on an evacuation list—
           cornered in a crescent kick, he drives
           from a few neighborhoods east

           to arrive in an apartment where the sisters live
                                    where in a daydream I have painted myself
                                    with an elongated arm stretching across
                                    the continents to reach Venus’s hand
                                    I create this tenderness to call them
                                    with spiritual prerequisites

                                                              I barely hear
                                                              any fully formed thought
                                                              a babble, vanquished
                                                              sometimes a child’s cry
                                                              I try not to ask
                                                              what now and then




That intangible item, in and out of focus, hope like a sign of change
that everyone talks about, lives underground. It’s not uncommon
for it to persist or have little resistance to a flow of despair.

I try to grasp—is it a possibility to bring them:

                         My patient question ciphers irregularly.

Like neutrality amassing only to blow up in anger.

Despite the predictable tendencies, I’m sorry.

For up until the last flight, I was worried about my persons.




The plural scattered and in silence chanted   god the greatest   in support of an army
whose bodies were left in four hundred beds                  the nemesis press releases

                                              cannot differentiate the dead’s roots from its belongings

It’s almost November

Two and half months of two-point-o

My husband whom I married in that invasive
August mentions in passing:

                            I didn’t expect us to suffer this much
                            this early into our marriage




The world’s wildest ideological practices

on that infamous


I rehearse the sum of all interferences
    and my own insignificance:


my forms oppose irresponsible innovations     

as a colleague describes they self-emerge and self-suffice     




and humbled by the bombardments     
with no expectation of idiosyncratic     

this poem:

                                                             fourteen hundred words plant the pledge
                                                                                                      re-do, re-do


And even though I have stranded
                    many architectures of you

                                    always there lingers an outline
                        of something I must get back to




When my father died

                         the constables were not poets

a cruel variant was traveling through the houses

                 —we had no procession of mourners
the killer banned all trends of grieving—

                         Outside, maps of the opponents were advancing

his gravestone on the long list of


if I ever go back

                 I will find him

lying next to my mother

nameless, at last




I want to go back

my father has died

their poets have traveled

to the outer maps

their killers have banned

all trends of advancing

constables’ cruel variant

fled from the country

a coward

carved a gravestone

for each house

to grieve a long list

of mourners

who had no procession



First published in Disbound, University of Iowa Press (2022). Used with permission. All rights reserved.