Massa Reza, Everywhere I look I see you, oil on canvas, 2023

Elyas Alavi is a poet and visual artist whose practice addresses of identity, displacement, race, religion, gender, and sexuality through poetry, painting, installation, performance and moving image. More specifically, his work explores complex histories in the Greater Middle East region. Born in Daikundi province, Afghanistan, Alavi moved to Iran as a child following the intensification of war in his homeland. He is currently based in Australia.

We hugged each other tightly
and quickly let go.
With no hope of seeing each other we cried,
                                                     “Hope to see you soon.”
Mother laughed:
                                “Surely this isn’t a journey to Kandahar?” *
And we, too, smiled bitter, bitter smiles.

The train’s whistle blew, mournfully
A thousand yearning travellers waved from that side
A thousand yearning friends waved from this side.

We went home
And sought refuge in the dark rooms
Threw her arms around the porch
Took one look at the blossoms in the orchard
And loudly, loudly sobbed.

Poem recited in Farsi

Poem recited in English

This poem is translated from Farsi/Persian into English by Zuzanna Olszewska

* “A journey to Kandahar” is a Persian idiom for a long, difficult journey. There is an additional level of irony here because for Afghans, a journey could well be a journey to Kandahar, although this one is not.

I wish grapes would ripen

I wish grapes would ripen
The world become drunk
Streets stumble
Brush against each other,
Presidents and beggars.
I wish borders could become drunk
and Mohammad Ali could see his mother after 17 years
Ameneh could touch her child after 17 years

I wish the grapes would ripen
Amoo River would bring up his best-looking sons
Hendookosh Mountain would free her daughters.
For a moment
Guns would forget to tear apart
Knives, to slash open
Pens would write “fire” as “ceasefire”.

I wish mountains would reach each other
Sea would reach up to the sky
and steal her moon
Leopards and gazelles
Would go drinking together.

I hope the drunkenness will touch all things
The windows will break the walls
and you
While embracing your beloved tightly
Would remember me.
My darling
My faraway friend
Drink another cup with me
To all the vineyards
Overflowing with grapes.

Poem recited in Farsi

Poem recited in English