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Mothers Over Nangarhar – speaks back to the world while being deeply aware of its own nature in this wakeful way, aware of the strange and haunting paradox of having given life to the world that encircles it and having also been brought to life by that same world, the paradox of being in the middle of a war without being on the ground, the imagination brimming in the wake of the ship of state. The book circles its subject with the poignant uncertainty of whether it is merely observing or being dragged down into the depths. These are poems that move like liquid, pursuing what has been lost in those distanced decisions as life turned a corner and bent out of sight, that move with a foreboding sense of an approaching but unconfirmed shipwreck, having passed cindered flotsam in the sand.
—Rowan Ricardo Phillips
Nangarhar is a province in eastern Afghanistan on the border of Pakistan. Its capital city is Jalalabad. The province was once a refuge for Osama bin Laden.
Jalalabad in January
Falling asleep I say the word Jalalabad. My tongue rolling over the syllables of the name of the city. The aaas and lllls like bedtime prayers. The word a secret in my mouth that streams across lake through the night. Jalalabad says a coyote. I am late for everything because Jalalabad. I find it difficult to talk. In meetings, other words seem dissonant. Hours later I lose track in the canned goods aisle. By dinner, Jalalabad is an ancient desert city at the foot of the Khyber Pass, fed by rivers, with a highway from Kabul to Peshawar. It’s a centerpiece on the kitchen table. It is orange and pomegranate. And soldiers near helicopters. I clean the sink. A sense of place is important to a reader. Jalalabad, sing my hands.
—from Mothers Over Nangarhar