Monday, December 5, 2011


Each morning, there was heartache and trees stripped by hunger. Dust that aged me by the minute.  Cold air singing back, frosting the skin.

I waited.
I waited.

At night, dogs barked unease. No one listened. My neighbors slept under the weight of the past. Blood running in the sewers, I lay sleepless, mouthing into a moon lit sky. 

Asking to belong.
She took every drop of me.  Never
 asking why. 

She knew the taste of fear, of longing, of loss,
letting me toss my stones into her river and swallowing them all whole.

She will always be my city.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Frankfurt, Germany

The department store is a round belly room of white tiled floors shimmering against each other. Glass counters, crisply lined with stainless steel--a dressing room in vanilla. My mother walks out in high heels, wearing a long brown mink coat, with fur around the collar and the cuffs. A belt to cinch it all in. Hands on hips, her fine black hair piled up softly on her head. She presses her lips, looks into the mirror and is multiplied three times in her loveliness. My mother is not tall, rather a small goddess in mink and fur, a face and heart like frosted ice. She is the most beautiful woman.

Her hand is delicate, thin with pink almond shaped nails. There is a ring slid on the finger. An emerald encircled by small diamonds. The woman behind the jewelry counter says this emerald is made from two separate cut stones seared together. I stand on my tiptoes and peer into it, but there is no cut to be seen. Just a bottomless, green morsel, anchored to my mother's finger by her own sheer will.

She holds her hand approvingly up to see this fact. It is the first piece of jewelry my father will buy for her. An emerald to take back with her to Kabul, for the six years of loneliness she swallowed in the damp apartment we shared, the tears wept for her parents, the home, the girl she abandoned in Kart-e-Char.

When I became a teenager, my limbs aching, I would take that ring out of the jewelry box in her bedroom, stare into it searching for the moment it began. 

That fracture set in motion that was her life and the life I inherited. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mazar e Sharif Airport

February 5, 2011

The small terminal that is the Mazar e Sharif Airport lies sleeping on a bed of flat river country.

It’s early morning and crisp--the dust has already covered everything on me; coat, purse, shoes, hair, hands, camera bag.  Black hawk helicopters swim back and forth over our heads from the American base next door. There is a small metal shack where a young boy in a frayed coat sells Red Bull and chips and biscuits and candy.  Otherwise, we are stand in an open yard of dirt and pebbles sectioned off by a wire fence waiting to go through security. 

The last time I was here a month ago, before you were sent to the large hangar to wait for your plane to land, you had to go through five checkpoints. Two checkpoints, consisting of a wide table and several guards, were spaced about 6 yards from each other.  You opened your bags, walked 6 yards and opened them all up again. 

This morning, all checkpoints have been reduced to one. There are a few silent travelers scattered in the yard. I am happy. My jet lag has me drained. I say quietly to myself, please get me through cluster fuck security quickly.
Guards begin opening up my suitcase, going through every piece of clothing. I hope they dont linger on my underwear, that's always awkward. No eye contact. They are surprised to hear me speak Dari to them.  They usually start talking about me,  then their mouths hang open when I speak back to them. Regardless, I might as well be a foreigner. 
The women have to get body searched in a separate area.  I walk into a massive container that lays like a beached whale in the airport yard, pull back a wool blanket door and step into a room, pitch black, lit only by a small fire burning in a rusty metal barrel. A woman sits squatting on a stool, her thighs cupping the barrel for warmth. I can’t really see her. She has tight black sleeves and her generous arms make the sleeves sag at the elbows. She wears what seems like an even blacker veil and her skin is dark and leathered, her cheeks plump like brown balloons. The rest of her is invisible. She does a quick search all over my body.
When she gets to my green shoulder bag she starts pulling out all my make up, piece by piece and examining it. Time slows down. Her fingers seem to move through my purse as if kneading dough. I think about how proud I am of this bag, I have bought it especially for my time in Kabul and Mazar. It has a compartment for everything. I ordered it on after searching through TJ Maxx and Marshalls for hours. There are pockets for my cell phone, money, keys, cards, eyeglasses. It’s a total geek’s travel bag. I would have never bought that bag in my 20’s.  I have become that woman now.
The woman in the container pulls out my Laura Mercier compact bronzer.

What is this?, she says without looking at me, opening the compact.
Uh, it’s blush-- for your face.

She dips her fat dirty finger in the blush and starts making little circles and asks,

Is it any good? She moves the finger to her cheek and begins to rub it.
Uh, yes. It’s good, it gives you color. She examines herself in the compact. 
It’s not working, she says, disappointed that the green bag has not yielded any treasure for her that she can make out.
No, it’s not that kind of blush, it’s subtle, it gives you color but not red cheeks.
Oh. Can I have it? She looks straight at me, her eyes nervous, yet steady.
No, you can’t have it.
Just give it to me, she persists.
I can’t give it to you because it’s the only bronzer I’ve brought with me and I don’t have another one.
I am getting irritated but feel stuck to her somehow.
What’s this?
That’s mascara.
Do you have any aspirin for headaches?
No, I don’t.
What’s this?
That’s eyeliner.
Can I have it?
No, I need that.
What will you give me then?, she says. Her voice hushed but quick. She knows she can’t keep me in here long because the guards outside will become suspicious.
I pause and squint. I can barely see her face fully. I make out a long thin jersey dress stretched over her body. Her hands are so dry and dirty. Her eyes lit only by the flicker of the fire. 

How many hours a day does she sit here?
I reach into my bag for my Clinique lipstick. 

Here take this.
What is it?
It’s lipstick, very good, from America. 
Yes, you can make it darker or lighter depending on the shade you want.
She fills in her mouth with the lipstick. Looks at herself in the compact mirror again. 
Oh, I see, she says.

She looks like an overgrown gnome with black honey lips.

When are you coming back?
In a few weeks, maybe.
You’ll bring something again?
I don’t say anything to her, but take my bag back, throw it over my shoulder. 

Okay then, goodbye, I turn to leave and she says nothing back to me. 

I can feel her recede into the darkness as I go out.I walk out into the morning sun. Have I been in there for days?The guard overhears me telling my crew that she took my lipstick.
Did she take something from you?, a tall young Afghan man in a uniform too big for him asks as his hand moves towards the AK-47 on his shoulder.
No, everything’s fine, I quickly tell him.
I realize I have to be careful. I am not at JFK, for Pete's sake.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

White Wool

An empty warehouse, he sits close to me, dripping.

I want to sink my mouth into back.
He sits with me. 
He sits at a bench cutting slabs of wood. 
Chips pepper my hair.
Why is T. in both places?
Am I not enough?

He whispers: You have to tie those up.
Two tiny strings, like small white snakes, float off the front of my sweater into the room.
I say: Can't I leave them as they are?
He says: It will be better if you do.
Reaching down, his breath pressing on me,
my tongue coils.
He gingerly ties the slivers of wool,
fingers moving like my grandmother's needle,
making two perfect white bows.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On the train last night next to a man in a crinkled jacket, I tried to read the Chinese newspaper over his shoulder. A column of stacked red, yellow, and blue graffiti rejected me. I squinted to decipher three letters. A house, a bird and a set of bunk beds. He continued reading the results of Chinese Olympic ice skating.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It appears that there is an unchanging fundamental law of the universe about men of a certain age and women of a certain age that I keep seeing crop up.

I saw Crazyheart last night, with Jeff Bridges. The premise of the story? That you can be a greasy, sloppy, puking on yourself middle aged drunk man, with your zipper open but, because you know how to write a good country song--a young, slinky woman like Maggie Gyllenhal, will want to sleep with you and treat you like a hunk o' burnin' love-- at least, until you lose her kid in a bar. She looked at him with these ridiculous doe eyes, hanging on his every slurry, whiskey drenched word. The scenes of them making out were creepy. I hope they were supposed to be.

For a woman on the other hand-if she's got a little untended facial hair, a few jelly rolls and she's over 45-- she's as good as a paper cup for a man her own age, I don't care if she's got talent coming out of her eyeballs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

For months now, I have sat in my office in dingy brown light, eyes straining, wishing I could be home. This morning, I put a higher voltage 150 watt light bulb in the lamp behind my desk.  Now there is a small sun on my back. The office is quiet now. I am here feeling the light, waiting for a phone call.
The first entry. I haven't any real idea why I am doing this except to try to make a small space for myself where I can talk about things I like and dislike, what moves and frightens me in the hope that it will lead me somewhere....

A few things I remember Toni Morrisson saying in the film
The Black List that I re-watched again this weekend--"avoiding the white male gaze or just not being interested in it and being freed up to write and say what you wanted and something about "making a small space for yourself".  What I remember most about these lines is the gesture she made with her hands at the end of her sentence, as if to punctuate it physically, she formed her two fingers into a small box in front of her heart.  A space for herself that seems so small when she describes it but so powerful in the world. If I could only be so brave and smart.