Monday, August 18, 2014

Bejeweled Mountains: A prose poem dedicated to Afghanistan on its Independence Day


Happy "Never-Colonized" Independence Day to Afghanistan: a land which was a protectorate (or suzerainty) to the British but never its colony. I wrote a prose poem to summarize Afghan history in 400 words. 

Bejeweled Mountains

From the days of antiquity
Afghanistan has been an entrepot of ideas
A crossroads where civilizations clash and converge

Known once as Aryana and Khorosan
It thrived as a hub of Hellenism 
Of Zoroastrianism and Buddhism 

When David’s Kingdom fell
The Lost Tribe of Israel fled Roman Palestine 
And merged with the Pashtuns 

Prophet Mohammed’s Arab crusaders after 
Encountering centuries of resistance 
At the doorsteps of Kabul, converted the land to Islam 
Afghans embraced Allah, rejected Arabic 

Hindu and Sikh pilgrims, seeking
Higher altitudes, flocked here from India 
The Persian Safavids came
Challenging Arab hegemony, and
Carved a Shia presence here

Budding commerce popularized Sufi mysticism
Along the fabled Silk Road 
To the country’s far northern steppes 
The Tajiks and Turkic people brought shamanism 
Genghis Khan’s invaders left their legacy here
The Mongol offspring evolve as the Hazaras

All empires shall triumph, but only those of Christendom shall come to bury thy graves.

The British emporium arrived and fell back, three times 
Russian expansionism failed, and 
The land became the coffin of Soviet Russia 
A millennia of quarrels breed between the Hazaras and the Pashtuns
And despite them, there remains the spirit of a nation

When not fending off foreign invaders 
Pashtuns consolidated power 
The Abdali confederation defeated the Hotakis 
The Durrani tribe established sovereignty 

Within the Durrani, the Barazkai clan devolved as monarchs
Their offshoot, the Muhammadzais, ascended to power 
The Duranni dynasty solidified its foothold
On the nation whilst the Ghilzai chieftains retaliated 

The Pashtuns collaborated with Aimaq and Balochi tribes
And forced the pagan Nuristanis 
To proclaim the Shahada declaration of Muslim faith 

After two centuries, the Muhammedzais disintegrated 
The Cold War ushered in a Republic 
And four brief Marxist regimes in succession

The Maoist movement was suppressed 
The mujahedeen defeated the pro-Soviets 
But anarchy soon followed 

The orphans of the mujahedeen became the Taliban 
An Islamic emirate bred terrorism 
Drained the nation of its heritage 
And clashed with its humanity 

An attack against globalism 
Brought the West to seek revenge in the abyss 
And the “security community” rushed in 
To save the fibrillating heart of Asia

The country trapped a superpower 
And her allies in a seemingly endless purgatory
Afghanistan sabotaged the dreams of Pax Americana 

Just as it set the sun on the British Empire 
And quashed the Brezhnev doctrine of the Soviet Union
Now, as uncertainty plagues

The Northern Alliance dominate for now 
Whilst Pashtunistan regresses into an intractable chasm
 

In the midst of the struggle between Islam, modernity, and tribalism
A forbidden gay alliance among unlikely souls
Tests the conscience of a conflicted nation
And puts the future in both optimism and doubt. 

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