family on motorcycle

This poem was written for Father’s Day, June 15, 2014

When I say my father is a hero
It is not a slogan,
It’s not praise
It is a fact.

Here’s the truth behind an Afghan man
But let me not tell you,
Let me show you.

The sun was scorching when my father worked
In a twenty-floor building that scared the soul
Attached to a string, my dad found bread from his blood
To feed his six children with the thrust of his heart

My father’s hands are tough as leather
The most beautiful scarred hands
Precious leather that fought off disappointment
And brutality of pins and hammer blows

In the midst of the hard days of immigration
Through the whims of Iran’s government
My father raised our spirit
He said, “Educate yourself and thrive.”

He fixed the school’s chairs and desks
Mended their broken hearts and legs
In exchange for our education.
Like the carpenter Noah
He saved us

As I sat on the wooden bench in class
I caressed the desk and said,
“We are in this together, friend”
And I studied hard to bloom more of my father’s hopes

My aunts and others talked absurd
They didn’t believe in a girl’s education
Their words like swords
Stabbed me in my heart and throat

Scared of people’s talk,
My brothers didn’t want me to work
But my dad upheld my rights
And broke the tortured silence
He said, “Nobody should force my daughter to do anything she doesn’t like”

Then he drove me to work on his motorbike
Proud of carrying his daughter, a teacher,
Letting the wind blow the bitter looks

In the center of Herat,
My father and I have a favorite spot,
Where we talk and laugh and
Eat shir yakh *

Like a true hero who values others’ happiness
My father sacrificed his youth for us
His every white hair a thread of diamonds
Every sentence, a fountain of wisdom

My father is a hero
Who lifts up a world of struggles,
giving meaning to others’ lives.

By Mahnaz

shir yakh = Afghan ice-cream

Photo by Staff Sgt. Ian M. Terry