Women Washing Clothes in the Kabul River

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Afghan women, without their burqas, wash clothes in Kabul river ( REUTERS:Yannis Behrakis REUTERS)

(Yannis Behrakis-REUTERS) 

Photo in The New York Times
Nov 15, 2001

shuttered in houses,
the windows painted black.
Today, they curve around
the banks of this river
like women gossiping
in a painting by Renoir.
Colorful clothes
purple, bright green and orange
reflected in the water,
overflowing baskets
brilliant burqas
worn carelessly or tossed aside,
feet bare, hair still covered
old fashioned pantalets
showing beneath skirts
as they bend to their task.
They are molting
shedding the decades
letting silvery coils
of water flow around them,
tiny fish sport about their toes.
In the foreground
A girl child
skirts upraised
is ankle deep in the stream
an expression on her face
of quizzical delight.

in case new tyrants come
before they are shut up again
they rush to taste once more
old lives of ordinary happiness.

·    ·    ·

I wrote this poem soon after the Afghan war began and after I saw the Times photo. I was very moved by this image and still am, so that ever since I have lived within a confusion of mixed emotions—wishing the war to be over, yet fearful of the return of those new/old tyrants.

From my book, In the Ninth Decade, Red Dragonfly Press. Also appeared in Pemmican Press online and in Pratilipi, a bilingual Hindi online literary journal.


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