A Hungry Nation


Who would like to plant
mines in the fatherland?
I know how to plant a potato
in the soft earth,
something our fathers learned
from their fathers.Who would like to howl
like a wolf under a star-studded sky?
There’s no one who doesn’t know how
to murmur the local songs.I want to lie on a rooftop at night
and stare at the cosmos,
but I’m afraid scorching small stars
might rain down on my face.These days we carry coffins every day,
burdening and bending our sons’ backs.We are a hungry nation.
We shoot at each other
from behind fruit trees.
We are a hungry nation.
We plant mines in fertile fields.

Mujib Mehrdad is an Afghan poet, translator, and journalist. He taught Persian literature at Al-Beroni University in Afghanistan and edited Afghanistan’s largest daily newspaper, Hasht-e Subh. In 2021, Mehrdad’s most recent collection of poetry, Dolphin’s Alley (Kucha-e Dolphinha), won the Ahmad Shamlou Poetry Award. He is a research scholar at Florida Atlantic University through the Scholars at Risk Network, a nonprofit that arranges for North American and European universities to host threatened scholars from around the globe.

Sholeh Wolpé is an Iranian-born poet, playwright, and librettist. Her literary work includes six collections of poetry, several plays, three books of translations, and three anthologies. Her most recent book, Abacus of Loss, is hailed by Ilya Kaminsky as a book “that created its own genre—a thrill of lyric combined with the narrative spell.” Wolpé is the poetry editor of The Markaz Review and is presently a writer in residence at the University of California, Irvine. She divides her time between Los Angeles and Barcelona.