Ask a random group of people what country has the strictest laws or customs for its women and there’s a great chance they’ll name Afghanistan. No wonder, with Talibanism slowly creeping back in as various areas have reintroduced laws keeping women inside the house unless accompanied by a male guardian.
You’d be much more surprised to hear Afghan women have a long tradition of composing two line poems that bluntly deal with all issues of life, including sex, love, (forced) marriage and the war between the Americans and the Taliban. Poetry Foundation did a great article on the so called Landays, both current ones as well as a short history on how they came to be.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Come, let’s leave these village idiots
and marry Kabul men with Bollywood haircuts.
Is there not one man here brave enough to see
how my untouched thighs burn the trousers off me?
Ouch! Don’t squeeze me so tight:
My breasts burn from becoming a woman last night.
And a longer one that came to existence as a boy and a girl exchange stanzas:
When you kissed me, you bit me,
What will my mother say?
Give your mother this answer:
I went to fetch water and fell by the river.
Your jug isn’t broken, my mother will say,
so why is your bottom lip bleeding that way?
Tell your mother this one:
My jug fell on clay, I fell on stone.
You have all my mother’s answers, sweet.
Now take my raw mouth — bon appétit!
(picture by Seamus Murphy, taken from the article on Poetry Foundation)
The article’s author Eliza Griswold tells us the following about the Landays: Despite the rigidity on the surface, women’s rebellion simmers underneath. Landays are its foremost form of expression. Since they are collective and anonymous, a woman can’t be held responsible for repeating them.
For her in depth research and an illuminating read, go to the article here on Poetry Foundation.