Just like Jalalabad

The American that went to Jalalabad wrote:

      It looks like New Jersey!

What would he have thought of Afghans in Parsippany?

This was 1922, there was no “Cold War”

to boil Afghanistan down to the bones—

so there were no Afghans in Parsippany, yet.

But I think, he needed to meet some Jersey Afghans

to see if they agreed with him.

In Jersey, my dad sat by a small waterfall and said,

Once there was a man in the Safid Koh who was so powerful in faith

that he turned the waterfall back upwards just with the utterance of a prayer.

Now, Kiran, my journalist friend tells me she was in Safid Koh

and it’s not a place for mountainside picnics—

the mountains are all for bunkers, weapons,

and the falling teeth of warplanes.

She sends me photos of checkpoints from her phone.

But I am still thinking

about my father’s story of my grandfather

by the waterfall in the Safid Koh. So I say,

See, it is a bewitched place.

There is a spell, a tilism, to keep people from reaching it.

She shakes her head and tells me No,

you need to go and see for yourself in New Jersey.


Zohra Saed is the co-editor of One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature (University of Arkansas Press), editor of Langston Hughes: Poems, Photos, and Notebooks from Turkestan (Lost & Found, The CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative); and poetry Woman. Hand/Pen. (Belladonna chaplet series). Her essays on the Central Asian diaspora have appeared in Eating Asian America (NYU Press) and The Asian American Literary Review. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and translated into German, Arabic, and Portuguese.