by Suhrab Sirat (translated by Aviva Dautch)
We’re sharing this translation for Refugee Week 2021, where the UN approximate at least 80 million are displaced on planet Earth. Suhrab Sirat was born in the Balkh Province of Afghanistan in 1990, and gained exile to the UK in 2014 following numerous death threats for his work as a journalist and poet. This is translated by Dr Aviva Dautch, who lectures in Jewish culture at Roehampton University, is published by Nine Arches Press and is the resident expert On Form, the enlightening and educational series on BBC’s Radio 4 presented by Andrew McMillan.
My soul, my shadow, the dreams I stare into the night are wounded.
I kiss my mirror-self. The lips with which I bite are wounded.
I am a year filled with venom, every season
is autumn: leaf-filled evenings, the snaking twilight are wounded.
The signs of the stars – my Scorpio, my Libra,
Sagittarius pierced by his own arrow’s flight – are wounded.
The snorting bull, on whose proud horns the Earth is caught,
is heartsick. His heart, my heart, breaking at our plight, are wounded.
I have no country, no land, not even a room
the size of a grave. No sky. Centuries of starlight are wounded.
My father gives me food / gave me water: childhood’s
homework. Beneath dust and blood, the pages are white, are wounded.
We are creatures without self, senses numbed by loss,
spirits broken. Our passions – sweet appetite – are wounded.
Our stories haemorrhage life’s pain from start to end:
my name, religion, memories, the words I write are wounded.
Suhrab Sirat is an exiled poet, writer, journalist, and former civil society activist from Afghanistan. Born in 1990, in the Balkh Province, Suhrab came to the UK as a political refugee in 2014. His poems, essays and literary reviews have been widely published, in print and online, across Persian speaking countries and received several literary awards in Afghanistan.
Aviva Dautch is the British Museum’s poet in residence for Refugee Week 2021. This summer she is the resident expert on BBC Radio 4’s ‘On Form’, a series exploring the recent resurgence in formal poetry, which includes an episode about the ghazal featuring Wound-i-stan. Aviva’s co-translation with Hamid Kabir of The Eighth Crossing, a pamphlet-length free-verse poem by Suhrab Sirat about his refugee journey from Afghanistan to the UK, was published in January 2021 by Exiled Writers Ink.