Turkoman Gul

Every family

has a Turkoman Gul,

an elephant’s foot

tied to its fate,

woven from the first harvest

of the madder root.

During the war,

my grandpa sold his crimson rugs

to different strangers.

That’s how we came 

to this country.

Years later,

he found and bought each rug.

They came back to me.

But to be Afghan

is to live in agony,

to scrub stains

from your rug

on humid summer days,

and when someone asks,

how are you? You tell them

you bleed from 

your liver

across continents.


Born in New York City and raised in Virginia, Zuhra Malik is an Afghan American poet and civil engineer. Her poems have previously appeared in KAIROS. She has an orchid collection and a Bengal cat named Alpha.