Nasrullah Partow Naderi

Poet and Social Critic



 Biography and Translations by Dr.Sharif Fayez


Nasrullah Partow Nadiri was born in 1952 in Jershah Baba village of Badakhshan province and completed his elementary and high school education in his birthplace. In 1970 he graduated from Kabul Teacher Training School and received his bachelor from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Kabul University in 1975.


Since childhood, Nadiri loved reading literature, particularly poetry. The beautiful mountainous setting of his village inspired him to write his own lyrics. After graduating from Kabul Teacher Training School, he wished to study journalism at Kabul University, but, as a graduate of a public teacher training school, he was required to study either social or natural sciences at Kabul University. Nevertheless he believes his study of geology and biology has enriched the rationalistic aspect of his poetry and his sense of reality, which is reflected in his works.  


Like many other Afghan artists and intellectuals, Nadiri was arrested by the Communist Regime in Kabul on charges of anti-regime political activities and imprisoned in the infamous Pulcharkhi Prison in the fall of 1984. He remained in prison until the end of 1986.


In September 1997, he fled to Pakistan, where he worked for the Dari program of the BBC World Service until 2002.  His cultural reports for the Dari program of BBC Radio enjoyed popularity among educated Afghans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and abroad. Nadiri is a civil society activist and an outspoken social and political critic.


Images of poverty, imprisonment, drought, Taliban-style tyranny and obscurantism, destruction and death abound in his poems.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has written more blank verses than fixed forms.  “The Other Side of Purple Waves” is considered one of the best blank verses in modern Afghan poetry. His published collections include: An Elegy for Vine, Leaden Moments of Execution, and A Lock on the Gate of Ashes.  



In the Frozen Streets of Eclipse


I passed through remote winters

where everyday an old man

from a dark history’s street

stood on the ancient Zenborak Wall*

cursing the bright civilization of his tribe

Then he rolled up his sleeves and

planted by the false stream

the black poplar of his sermons.


I passed through remote winters and

                      noticed that the sun’s hands

failed to put anything on a child’s small palm

The sun’s generous hands

in the frozen streets of eclipse

were empty of its shining generous coins 


The sun’s generous hands

were rotting in the night’s dark pockets.

I passed through remote winters and

                      it was possible there to offer the bread fragrance

                      as a rich perfume gift to the most beautiful city girl

And it was possible there   

                      to graft the blossom of the bread image

                      to the perfume of illusion 

in the flower vase of the children’s minds and

look forward for rain.


I passed through remote winters and

                      I saw there people nearby a bakery

counting with their fingers

                      the coins that the king of poverty

                      had minted on either side “hunger”

As I returned home at night with a bundle of hunger

                      my children understood

from the broken lines of my hands

the meaning of geographical nothingness

And they drank water from the pot of thirstiness

And for expectation, they expected a flower bouquet 

                      at the crossing point of winds.


My children have mastered the culture of hunger and

                      speak foreign languages and

from morning to evening translate the word “bread”

                      from the kitchen dictionary into a thousand languages. 

My children know

                      that “bread has overcome

                      the amazing prophetic mission.” **

My children know that

                      the destruction alphabet has been written

                      on school blackboards

with a chalk made of fire.

And the red rain of the disaster

                      has flooded the school’s orchard of songs

                      with the blossom of silence.

My children know

                      that the school is a monkey

                      unleashed in the black jungle of guns

                      a despised exile in the island of tanks.


I passed through remote winters and

                      I heard the voice of an old man   

                      flowing in the ruptured vein of every explosion

                      inviting death to watch the city.

And he still shackles life

                      in the lowest level of hell.

And stones the spring

                      in the green mirror of plants.

I recognize his voice;

                      his voice invites the sinister crows                     

                      to the high branches of the orchard.

His voice sings a lullaby

                      to the child of light

                      in the cradle of dawn and

                      beheads wakefulness.

His voice is a carnivorous plant 

                      rooted in history’s stench.


I passed through remote winters and

                      know that no person awake at night

                      had ever heard the sun’s coughing

                      from the other side of the darkness’ hills

And I know there is nothing in the land--

In the land, a swarm of the vultures of explosion

                      bite into the ripped body of the day.

And the village old farmer

                      thrashes his harvest

in a circle of nothingness.

And hunger is measured by a centurial measurement

which the sun has lighted

the human rights as a golden dome

over the pavilion of its awareness

There is nothing on the earth.

On the earth nobody trusts his shadow

And the curve of every street

    is a passage that

  has linked the Seven Adventures of Rustem ***

  to the reality of history.

I have come from remote winters and

                      my feet recognize every span

                      of the trail of misery.

What should I say?

The silk of my sentences are short

The “button” of my words is broken

What clothes should I tailor

for the tall figure of my pain?


Kabul, April 1996


*An ancient wall built on the Zenborak Mountain in Kabul city

** An allusion to a line from Farogh Farrokhzad, a famous Iranian poet

*** Rustem is the central hero of Ferdowsi’s epic The Shahnameh (The Book of Kings)



The Idol-Breaker’s Calendar


The spring is dead and a flock of black vultures

have laid on the sun’s bloody seat

a feast from the moon’s skull and bones of stars.

The spring is dead and nobody measures life and light

with the sun’s breaths.

And nobody knows that the sun in my land

has grown several centuries old

in three hundred sixty-five days.

Spring is dead and nobody knows

who from the devil party fired the first bullet

during the sun’s execution rite.

Spring is dead and the ashamed mourning multitudes

in the blue seclusion of Nirvana

heard only the sound of a blast

that blew apart the history’s millennia-old mind.

The spring was dead when the “Islamic Gateway”

was auctioning pieces of our torn body

at the crossroads of conspiracy

at the crossroads of the “Idol-Breaker’s Calendar”

The centuries-old dead bodies

died several thousand times in old graveyards

And the centuries-old dead bodies

died of shame in old graveyards and

died several thousand times over

When the “Islamic Gateway” on

the broken faces of Kabul walls:

inscribed in bold-faced letters:

Congratulations on the Victory

April 2001





All I had

 was a small knapsack

   that I carried from one house to another

Eventually I lost it

in one of the old city streets


Kabul, 1359