When We Were Kings and Queens


When I think of my childhood, I remember the old days
when I was a little girl, with black braided hair like goat horns.
In summer, my five siblings and I would sit on a wooden bed,
the huge bed my father made in the middle of the yard.
First, we threw little rugs on the bed, then fought to get
the best corner. The breeze was our playmate;
she brushed our faces, cooled our hearts,
slapped the mosquitoes and flies.
Like a scented friend, it carried the aroma of
flowers and wheat from farther fields.
Our house, in a vast meadow with a few other houses,
was a little flower in a bare garden, but we didn’t
feel alone; God was also our neighbor.

We laughed on the wooden bed, drank black tea,
and played with marbles as our white dog jumped happily,
circling the bed like a sacred shrine. Rolling on the dusty ground
like it was a sheet of velvet, I loved her small puppies.
I played with them, swirling them around by
their little paws and bursting into laughter.
They were like balls of cotton and I kissed their paws and
caressed them with love.
Some neighbors said, “Dogs are Najis, filthy.”
But I treasured them.
They played with us, they protected our house,
barking at strangers and enemies,
their yelps small and screechy, but their will was strong.
How could anyone call them “unclean”?
They were little angels. God wouldn’t create filthy things.

Sometimes we didn’t have bread in the house,
I was hungry, so mother gave me a piece of dried bread, and said
“Share it with the dog. She is also hungry.”
Her kindness reminds me of when she cooked okra with Kichiri,
We sat on the wooden bed and we ate in the moonlight.
We didn’t have electricity, but our hearts were bright and happy.
As we laughed, our teeth shined with the stars. We
named the stars to own them. With my eyes like a basket,
I picked them and then they escaped from my eyes and entered my heart.
In my best childhood memory we were all together,
me, my siblings, mother and father,
when we weren’t broken by war, or separated,
each thrown to a corner of the earth.
I was happiest then. With free minds and happy hearts,
we laughed together and adored simple things.
On the wooden bed we were kings and queens.

By Mahnaz

Photo by Phil Dragash


  1. I agree: God doesn’t create filthy things, and you, Mahnaz, have created a gorgeous poem, so rich with delicate and vibrant imagery, feeling. “We named the stars to own them”…this poem is full of happiness. You convey it with beauty and clarity. Stacy

  2. I agree, Stacy. This poem is gorgeous.. We sat on the wooden bed and we ate in the moonlight. Mahnaz, thank you so much. This poem opens my heart to the beauty of life. Terry

  3. Nancy Antle says:

    This is such a beautiful, heart lifting poem about your remembered childhood. I loved reading it again and I was struck on this read by how even though this is specific to you and a special place — it speaks to all of us — especially the lines: “I was happiest then. With free minds and happy hearts, we laughed together and adored simple things.” Fabulous work!! Nancy

  4. M-I LOVE this piece. In my heart, it still has the magical title, “When we Were Kings and Queens.”

  5. So many beautiful images : eyes like a basket, teeth shined with the stars…what a lovely poem about a time that lives in your memory. Thank you for taking me there.


  6. No doubt that you are a wonderful poet.
    I loved this poem the last line is so touching so true. Thank you for writing dear Mahnaz.


  7. Alice Bullard says:

    Dear Mahnaz,

    I hope to read many more of your poems! The poem draws me into your world so vividly! I agree with the other comments and would just add that poems like this can help to heal a nation’s soul and help to move everyone forward.

  8. Mahnaz! Your poem! This counts among one of my very favorites. So, so beautiful. Many thanks for sharing. All the best to you and, as always, keep writing!

  9. Lynn Robson says:

    Your mother this time for ever in this poem of sharing and caring. How many puppies have I fostered in Afghanistan. Your angel puppies are so always in the moment unconditional in love and they do their job of protecting. My children were raised by their pet dogs always saying they were not asking about homework or chores just glad to see them. :)

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