Birth of a Girl. a poem by Fatema Akhtar. translated by Bänoo Zan

Fatema Akhtar photo by Nilofar Zohuri Rahoon

Birth of a Girl

Among desert-roaming nomads
one evening the downcast sickly-yellow Sun
collected her wares, gathered her skirts
and hurried towards the dark

The tent was black, the woman in pain,
her soul on fire, consumed, yet cold
Once more, it’s a girl—What an end 
to nine months of fear and hope

Not a gunshot to announce good news
Nor a torch to grace the space
The midwife—not rewarded—
cast a shadow on her face

I was that unwanted girl
the disgrace of the tribe
For my ancestor, the chief,
a girl was cause for shame

An infant boy, though headless,
was better than—God forbid—a girl
Ashamed of my creation I was
a woman lost with bleeding heart

Nine months of fear and hope ended
Pain and sorrow increased two-fold
Not welcomed (head covered in black)
Mother was shamed for her birth

I first learned inferiority 
from beings and being and life
Merchandise I was—for exchange—
a loser in the bargain—woman 
فاطمه اختر
تولد یک دختر


در خیل کوچیان بیابان گرد
یک شامگاه زار و نزار و زرد
خورشید با شتاب بساطش بست
دامان کشید و سوی سیاهی جست

غژدی سیاه بود و زنی از درد
آتش به جان و خسته و اما سرد:
این باز هم پسر نه، که دختر شد
نُه مه امید و بیم چو آخر شد

نه یک شلیک خوشخبری برخواست
نه مشعلی به نور فضا آراست
هم ناگرفته مژده ی خود دایه
با دست خود فکنده به رو سایه

آن دختری نخواسته من بودم
قدر قبیله کاسته من بودم
جدم رییس ایل و تبارش بود
دختر به خانه منشه ی عارش بود

نوزاد اگر پسر و که بی سر بود
به گر - خدانخواسته - دختر بود
از خلقتم خجل شده من بودم
مبهوت و خون به دل شده زن بودم

درد و فسردگی دوبرابر شد
نُه مه امید و بیم چو آخر شد
خوش آمدش نگفت (سیه سر شد)
از زادنش خجل شده مادر شد

آموختم نخست فرو دستی
از کائینات و بودن و از هستی
جنسی به یک مبادله من بودم
بازنده در معامله زن بودم

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Fatema Akhtar was born in Herat, Afghanistan, and has lived in Canada for the last 34 years with her 3 daughters. Fatema studied law at Kabul University and was a Prosecutor for 8 years. She has published 4 books of poetry and is currently working on a collection of her work from the last 20 years.

Bänoo Zan is a poet, librettist, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with more than 250 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books including Songs of Exile and   Letters to My Father. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Canada’s most diverse poetry reading and open mic series (inception: 2012), a brave space that bridges the gap between communities of poets from different ethnicities, nationalities, religions (or lack thereof), ages, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, poetic styles, voices and visions. Bänoo is the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Alberta, Canada, Sept 2022-May 2023.

Bänoo Zan by Rahma Shere

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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