Cretaceous, Bro

Dude, dude, dude! ’Kay. No, listen, bro. You’ll love this next part.
So we were being chased by this one giant turkey thing, right? And like, this thing is fast, ’kay?

Like: Holy. Shit.

And it’s like scary even, like, I know it’s a bird and all, but it has these teeth, man, and this big red face, and dude, it was huge. Like, no joke, it could sit on your house. Had these really gay feathers though, like multicolored and shit.

Anyway man, I’m fucking booking it, and just dragging Lucy, and she’s screaming, like, “Oh my God, we’re going to get eaten by a T-Rex, Shawn, you fucking jerk!” Like all hysterical you know? So I’m like, Luce, that’s a fucking turkey, I’ve seen Jurassic Park, ’kay? I should know.

By the way, turns out: was wrong. I checked when I got back. T-Rex had feathers! Did you know? Yeah, and they lived in the Cretaceous, bro, not the Jurassic period. It’s like a whole ’nother period.

So anyway we’re getting chased by this giant turkey T-Rex thing, fucking ruining my childhood with its big gay feathers, and we get to like, a fuckingcliff, right? So I’m like, “Fuck you, turkey, I’ve been mountain climbing since I was eight!” So I just climb down the side of the cliff, and me and Luce are just hanging there like—

Dude, what do you mean? Were you even listening, brah?

Ugh! ’Kay, like I said, we had those mushrooms— Yeah! The ones from the hobo- shaman-drug dealer I’ve been buying from! He said they would take us back in time, but he’s always saying crazy shit like that, so I wasn’t too concerned about it, you know? They were like, way more expensive than the regular kind, though, so I figured they’d be pretty good. So yeah, put them on a pizza so Lucy would get high too, you know, ’cause she doesn’t do drugs? Yeah, it bums me out man, ’cause we got nothing else to do when we’re not fucking, like, all she talks about is her science-y shit. Should never have moved in with that bitch.

Anyway, we ate the pizza at this romantic picnic in the forest I planned out for her—shut up bro, she was having a rough week with school and shit. Whatever, man…that’s not the point. I offer you an epic, real life adventure story, with like, crazy shit happening, and you give me shit ’cause I was treating my lady to a romantic picnic? Fucking Indiana Jones didn’t have to deal with this shit when he was, like, romancing the stone, or whatever. (Shut up, I know those were two different movies.)

Anyways dude, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, we ate magic shroom pizza in the forest, and start tripping balls, like, instantly. Everything starts to get all bright and shit, and the trees just start to change into these tropical things—palm trees! Yeah, into fucking palm trees, man, and like, it was warmer too, you know? So like, we walk around in this weird tropical place, and we hear this whoosh noise above us. Lucy screamed sooo hard haha, you have no idea! For realz though, I was pretty freaked myself. It was like this giant bat flying over us or something. Turns out it was a pterosaur. Yeah, I looked up a bunch of shit when I got back, man. Like, did you know they didn’t even have cavemen in dinosaur times? No wonder we couldn’t find help, yo!

So yeah like I was saying, we’re walking in this jungle place, totally freakin’ high—but no, actually, we were just in the past. But it still felt like I was high though, ’cause of everything being all weird and different. I mean, no wonder there was no people back then, they probably just died from tripping out so hard every day, just from looking at all these weird birds and shit! Dinosaurs. Whatever.

So that’s when we hear this really weird gobbling sound behind us, and like, I turn around and there it is, this fucking giant turkey T-Rex looking at us with its head on one side all confused and shit and making those turkey noises. I was just like, whoa, the fuck is that thing? Fucking giant turkey!

Well no, actually it looked more like a parrot or something with the colored feathers and all but it sounded like a turkey. Also the big red face was like a turkey. At first I couldn’t stop laughing, ’cause it was so weird, you know? And ’cause I still thought we were tripping. But Lucy really freaked the fuck out that time and so we started running, and fuck, it could run. Like it just started chasing us. It was still fucking gobbling though, and bobbing its head like a pigeon or something while it ran, or like a chicken.

So we get to that cliff and—dude! Dude, this is the best part! No you’re not, you’re fucking texting Sarah again. I’m not blind, bro!

Dude, I don’t care what happened to you this weekend. Don’t you get it? I traveled through the dimensions of time, bro, and fucking walked with the fucking dinosaurs. I killed a pack of velociraptors with a spear! What? No, Lucy made the spear, do I look like a fucking caveman to you? You think I know how to make a spear? I just used it to kill the raptors, dude. I didn’t tell you that part? Oh man, trust me, you’ll want to hear this.

First of all. The raptors in J-ParkNot actually raptors. They were this other thing from the actual Jurassic, I think. In real life raptors are like these tiny bird things—well, just a bit smaller than in J-Park, but still pretty freaky, especially in a pack. They’re about the size of a dog, but more nimble, and really fast and vicious, man. Like a pack of giant crows or something, but with teeth, like razor sharp teeth, and those giant claw things on their feet. Yeah, that part of the movie was real. Check it out, dude, they totally clawed me here, see the scar?

’Kay, ’kay, ’kay, but…so anyway, we were just chilling in our little hut thing that we built— well, Lucy built—and… Yeah, it was pretty cozy, actually, we had, like, a fire pit in the middle and it was kinda under a rock and out of the way so no one would see us, but still had a bunch of light and shit, so we were good, you know? Like we had a nice home there for a little while—

Whatever, dude, like stop interrupting me.

So we were all like…we were going at it, you know? Like pretty intense, if you ask me. I dunno bro, it’s like, something about not knowing if you’re going to even…be alive the next day, or some deep shit like that. It’s…seriously bro, it’s the best aphrodisiac. Like, it was working for me too, you know? ’Cause I mean, even didn’t know what would happen, you know? I mean we were there for months man, months, just living like cavemen in these…Cretaceous dinosaur times… and like, hunting these giant raccoon-type things, ’cause they were the only things that kinda looked normal and didn’t freak us out too much to eat. I mean, you don’t know what’s poisonous, right? It’s like a different time and shit, everything is like, on another level. I dunno, Lucy explained it to me. I don’t know that science shit, all I know is it was pretty intense, man. Like, the fucking and the life. I mean, nothing can prepare you for that, you know? No matter how many reps you do you’re just not ready to tackle all those giant turkeys and bats and crows and shit, you know? Like,fuck, man. I mean, you know I’m not the scared type usually, but fuck, man. When you’re there it’s different, you know?

So anyway bro, there we are in this hut-cave thing, making sweet sweet love and shit, you know? And suddenly we hear these creepy-ass tropical bird noises circling around the hut… I mean, that was pretty much in the background all the time there, so you kinda got used to it, but it was really close this time, like right in our ears almost, so we were like, what. The fuck. Dude.

So I just freak the fuck out now and grab my spear and start stabbing like crazy outside the window-holes or whatever, and just screaming like totally freaking the fuck out, and Lucy’s like crying and shit and covering her face and ears; and then these heads come pecking through the fucking window-holes and trying to bite us and shit—for realz man, these things were vicious, like think giant angry crows—and so I just went on this…rampage, like flight or fight shit, and there was nowhere to “flight” to, ’cause we were stuck in this cave or whatever, this fucking…hole in the ground. So I just burst out of the hut like a fucking bat out of hell, and just start screaming and killing, like Rambo or some shit haha I dunno. And they start trying to fly up and attack me, but they can’t really fly man, they were just flapping around like chickens or whatever, you know, like, they could get off the ground a bit but they weren’t flying, you know? It wasn’t like The Birds or nothing like that, it was more like…being attacked by a pack of wolves, but they were cawing and flapping their wings and trying to slice me with their toe knife things.

And I’m just like, no. Hell no. Just stabbing them in the neck and shit, and in the rib cage, and just blood flying everywhere and all over me and getting in my eyes. But the spear was getting stuck in their rib cages, right? So I had to pull it out with my foot after, but really fast-like so I could stab the next guy before he bit me or sliced me open. At the same time though I’m doing like some crazy Kung Fu shit and twirling my spear around to knock out the guys behind me, you know? ’Cause seriously, there was a lot of them, bro, you have no idea.

And then… Bro, bro, bro. Listen. Just when I thought I couldn’t go more bat-shit crazy, this one motherfucker manages to like…half-fly, half- climb…up on to my back, and slices me right where I have this scar here. And I just freaked. the. fuck. OUT.

They messed with the wrong motherfucker that night, let me tell you, ’cause I just lost it. No, seriously bro, I just dropped my spear, and grabbedthe guy by his fucking duck-neck, and just fucking bit his neck off. With my teeth. Like, some next- level Ozzy shit.

Like the Cretaceous fucking Ozzy Osbourne.

And I start doing it to the others too, like, just grabbing them and biting them and ripping parts out of them that I didn’t even know they had, and just crushing them with my feet too and punching them hard and just bashing their little fucking brains in.

Bro. Bro. It was fucking epic. Like, they should seriously make a movie about me right now.

So finally they’re all dead, right? I mean, by the end some of them got scared and tried to run away, but I was having none of that shit. Fucking chased every one of them down, and this one guy that got too far for me to grab it, I just hurled my spear at him, and got it, right in the side of its ass, so the tip was sticking out its lung or something. Like, it didn’t look very healthy after, that’s all I’m saying.

At this point I’m just screaming like a fucking caveman, like Tarzan or some shit, like beating my chest and everything. Fucking lord of the jungle, man. The fucking king. So I turn around to my girl, right? Like, expecting her to be all excited by it, or at least have some fucking gratitude forsaving her ass, you know? But she’s still all crying and shit… So you know, I calm down a little, and go to give her a hug, tell her it’s alright.

But no. She says, “Get away from me,” like she was scared of me. I’m like, excuse me, I just saved our ass, how about some fucking gratitude, you ungrateful bitch? You wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for me.

And then she just unleashes hell, like, she goes on her own rampage, you know? But with words.

She starts giving me this sass, man, like “Ummm, did you miss the part where I made the fucking spear you used to kill those things? Did I ever get any gratitude for that? Or how about the home I built us, a loving home despite the fact that we’re literally living in the fiery depths of hell over here? Where were you when I was making this place, huh? Just dicking around and climbing trees, and burning all the different plants you could find just trying to find the ones that can get you high!”

And then she goes on about how it was my fault we were here—like, how the fuck should I know the hobo-shaman-drug dealer could actually send us back in time? I was just trying to do her a favor and get her to loosen the fuck up for once in her life—and how she…sets all the traps to catch the raccoon-type things, and she cooks them and she cleans our cloths and made us a bunch of new ones and she goes to the river every day and fetches the water and fucking boils it for us so we don’t die—like being all dramatic and shit about everything, you know? Then she keeps going on about how, back in the present, I’ve been “emotionally unavailable” ever since I flunked out of college, and how I’m always getting drunk with the guys and not trying to get a better job and do something with my life and how I’m a slob and I never clean up after myself and how I always hit on her sister and it makes her uncomfortable— which is totally not true, by the way, she’s definitelyinto it—and how blah, blah, blah…

Typical bitches, eh? Everything always has to be about them all the time. She thinks just ’cause I don’t cry and shit like she does that everything’s always cool with me. Well fuck man, I was pretty fucking scared of that place too, let me tell ya. Like holy fuck, bro, am I glad that’s over.

She thinks that ’cause I don’t cry and complain and shit like her that everything’s always my fucking fault, that she’s always the victim. I mean, if I were the sensitive type like she says she wants me to be, she wouldn’t even be with me, you know? Like that guy Tobias! He’s been in love with her for years, and he’s a pretty good-looking guy, no? He’s all smart and shit too, and they’ve known each other since before…even before even knew her. But he’s always so calm and sensitive and shit, and everyone just talks over him all the time, so he doesn’t get laid much.

Not Tommy. Tobias, man. Tobias doesn’t get laid much. Are you even listening?

She listens to that guy Jacques though, no matter who else is talking. Probably ’cause he’s all foreign and shit. I don’t know how the dude is so smart, and so fucking confident too. Not like Tobias. I think it’s different in Europe, you know? You can be a nerd and confident, too. It’s like… they’re all hipsters over there or something, but with more expensive clothes.

I dunno. She says they’re “just friends,” that she likes to talk to him ’cause supposedly he listens or whatever. Well…fuck man, I’m just friends with Lindsey, but you don’t see me inviting her over to our place for tea every other day, you don’t see me just…ignoring Lucy every time I talk to Lindsey. Of course, I can’t talk to her about it… I mean, I’ve tried. But then she tells me to calm the fuck down, that I’m being “macho” or whatever. So I get a little angry when we talk about it, so what? Like, would she prefer it if I cried about it? Honestly bro, like do you think I should just…cry? Or would she think I’m a pussy? I’ve never seen Jacques cry, that’s for sure. Never even seen him get upset about anything, just smiling his cocky fucking Euro-trash smile all the time.

But oh, I’m the bad guy, ’cause I wanted to get high when the fucking dinosaurs were about to eat us and I couldn’t deal. ’Cause she made the fucking hole-in-the-ground house and I did nothing. ’Cause she invented and built the fucking time machine that brought us back. Well la di fucking da bro, I could have made that fucking time machine too if I’d studied science and shit like her, and I tell you what: it wouldn’t have taken me eighteen fucking months neither.

You know, I read an article the other day— ’cause you know, been trying to read papers and stuff so I can keep up with that Euro-fuck piece of shit Jacques—and it said the loneliest people in the world are the really educated women and the really uneducated men. Well, Lucy is pretty fucking educated. She doesn’t seem too fucking lonely to me. I dunno man, it’s just… I’m starting to feel all…alienated or, whatever. You know?

I mean, I didn’t expect this for my life neither, you know? Like, remember high school, man? We were the fucking kings of that joint, remember? Like, everything seemed so easy. I thought that would have turned into something by now, you know? I mean, we were promised so much more,man… What ever happened to “get rich or die trying,” bro? Like Fitty Cent and Entourage and all that shit, promising us the thug life if we’re just pimp enough to reach out and grab it? Like, first year college, bro, remember? That was the bomb, bro. Fuckin’…frat parties here, keggers there, getting laid all the friggin’ time and not knowing where the fuck we even were when we woke up… Remember that shit? We were winning, dawg. Then what the fuck happened?

It’s like everything’s backwards now. People who stayed in studying all day are off getting jobs and buying fancy-ass condos downtown, and guys like us got fuck-all. Where’s my pool house? Where’s my friggin’ Lambo? That’s what we were promised, no? That’s what all the songs and TV shows were about. Who knew that’s not how it was? No one told us shit… I mean, the teachers did, but who the fuck are they? Just…sad-ass, wrinkled old squares on their third divorce… Who would want to be like that? I just feel so lied to, you know? Like everything I did was for nothing. The only good thing I ever accomplished was getting with Lucy, and that might be going too now.

Lucy, man… All those times I let her down, all those times I went out with the guys instead of staying in and watching her fuckin’ chick flick shit—they’re not even that bad, you know? Nothing a beer or two can’t get you through. Could have just stayed home and drank there. So what if they called me a fag? So what if they said I was pussy-whipped? It’s just words, yo.

I dunno… You think it’s over, man, or do I still got a chance? Be honest with me, bro. You think I can fix this, or am I totally fucked?

…Bro? Dude, bro!

Whatever. Just…forget it, man. You’re not even listening.

Garish

“She had pantyhose drying on the towel rack. Just pantyhose with little wrinkly feet, out to dry. But she wasn’t one of those crazy chicks with bras in the dishwasher. Thank God.” He put down his drink. The square wooden table was glossed over, like his hair, like the two melting ice cubes, like his eyes. The...
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Nicky Beer Poetry Feature

Ad Hominem The Poet: Fugitive lung, prodigal intestine— where’s the pink crimp in my side where they took you out? The Octopus: It must be a dull world, indeed, where everything appears to be a version or extrapolation of you. The birds are you. The springtime is you. Snails, hurricanes, saddles, elevators— everything becomes you....
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The Bone Marrow Song

No matter how many times I drained one of my father’s bottles, it never seemed to be enough. I tossed the empty bottle between my hands; it was my fifth one that night, my twentieth this week. Sighing, I dropped the bottle to the floor and kicked it under my bed to join the others. The...
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Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Imagine you have a story to tell. It is a story about hopes, loss, tragedy, and courage. It’s your story. Now imagine trying to write this story having grown up in a country where education was denied to you, where telling your story has been criminalized. And then picture writing it in a second language.

The women of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, some not even teenagers yet, are doing exactly this: fighting to tell their stories. Despite the risks, these developing writers are driven by the need to share their voice.

TBL is proud to present these brave women’s work.

I Am Sorry, My Sister

by Sayara

For Farkhunda, murdered on March 19, 2015 by a mob of men in Kabul, aged 27

Your words went unheard
and you were punished for a sin
you did not commit.
I am sorry for the wild behavior of 
your cruel brothers.

Farkhunda, my poor sister
I cannot imagine the pain you suffered
I am sorry I couldn't help you
escape this harsh violence.
They beat you, they punished you

They burned you, they judged you. 
It is Afghanistan, where the people
act as court and law.
They took pictures and
watched you burn.

I want to write your name in red
with black coal: Marta-yer Farkhunda.
We will rename the Shah do Shamshera
Farkhunda Road to
honor your memory.

I am sorry, my poor sister,
all we can do is mourn, protest and 
punish these criminals for you.
I know you sleep now in your grave,
But this crime has taken away our sleep.

We cannot enjoy the New Year
because we still live in the old year.
How can I wear a colorful dress
while you wear your white shroud?

Farkhunda, my poor sister,
Forgive us for not being with you.
Your name will be forever
in our memories.

Mistake

by Basira

Not far from there,
I see her running with joy.
I hear her laughing,
I read her writing,
I listen to her teaching, 
I am inspired by her talent.

But it was when I moved away,
after I was separated from yesterday,
I remembered when she cried; she was hit,
before her voice rose up.
After, she smiled, 
but her life was regarded
as a mistake, which no one
wanted to exist.
When she went out, 
eyes stared
and lusted after her.

It is how it is there.
My heart hurts with stopped breath,
when I do not know if we
are the wrong gender,
Or if we are born
in a mistaken place.
We cannot choose
these things ourselves.
But it touches my tears
when it comes in my mind
and in front of my eye.

God’s Tears

by Kamilah

                                                                Once upon a time, I walked
                                                    on the clouds, talked
                                        to the moon, listened to the stars,
                           laughed with the sun,
                jumped up and down with the rain drops
into a deep ocean,

where fish were having a goodbye
party,
even though they were afraid of going
on a journey
of no return, afraid of saying goodbye
to the ocean of inhumanity and humans.

As I walked into the woods, the trees were shaking,
not because of the wind, but from seeing their friends
fall down on the cold, hard ground.

A mile further, I saw two birds
sitting on the branch of a collapsed tree,
looking hopelessly at the pieces of their fallen nest.

On that day, I believed the rain was God's tears.
She cried to show sympathy for her creatures.
She cried, cried deeply, and loudly.

Ocean of Love and Death

by Mahnaz

                                         Two people, both standing by the ocean--
                                       one with a happy heart, the other with a wrenched soul;
                                     one healed with hope, the other wounded with despair;
                                  one with a free mind, the other tangled in black thoughts.

                               One sees love in the ocean; the other sees death.
                             One wants to laugh out loud, scream and run around;
                           The other miffed with unkind tears that left her alone
                         She holds a big knot in her throat

                       As waves form white ghosts with sharp, bright teeth.
                     Foam running from the corner of their mouths
                   hungry for a new prey; they run towards the sad heart,
                 like wild horses, stomping the ground.

              Grabbing her ankles, pulling, pushing, the ghosts weed her from the ground,
            slapping her with their white-gloved hands;
          they chain her tight and pull her forward.
        Then, scared sands give way, making a hole beneath her feet.

With sands' cowardly action, the sad heart empties her faith.
  She looks to the pale sun, a sun that lost its power to black force.
     The horizon is empty of delight, its blank and grey eyes, scolding her,
        the sea birds turned to vultures, looking starved, waiting for her death.

            The blue ocean seems dark to teh eyes of a disappointed heart.
               The ocean bears no beauty but loss.
                  Ah--where is the courage to push her foward and strangle her in water?
                    She remains hopeless, filled with silence

But for the one with peaceful mind and happy heart
standing on the shore is ultimate joy;
the one watching birds, throwing out stones
Blessing her skin with the warm touch of sand

To her, the ocean is love, a source of relaxation
And the waves are angels, dancing towards her, opening
their wings, embracing her, inviting her to play with water.
The ocean depends on one's state of heart and mind.

Life is like an ocean
in the eye of each beholder; living can be death or love.
Like the waves of an ocean, life can have two faces--
Sometimes turning to beastly ghosts, sometimes to plushy angels.

Special Interview Feature

Lori Noack, Executive Director of the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Tethered by Letters has been partnered with AWWP for some time now, but this is our first time featuring the AWWP in F(r)iction. Can you tell our readers about your work?

AWWP is a U.S.-based not-for-profit organization founded in 2009 by journalist Masha Hamilton as a response to the profound suppression of women in Afghanistan. Our aim is to empower Afghanistan’s women through the development of their individual and collective voices, providing a safe space for them to develop skills, exchange ideas, collaborate, and connect. Through AWWP programs, nearly 300 women have published nearly 2000 essays and poems that are shared with readers around the world, offering unique insights into Afghan culture.

The core of our program is a series of online writing workshops where over 200 writers work online with a team of international writers, educators, and journalists. Through our partner NGO in Afghanistan, we run a women-only Internet café/library in Kabul, and offer monthly workshops in seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. These workshops differ from the online program in two key ways: First, they afford the women a place and time for community. Some women write without their friends or families knowing that they write for AWWP—the workshops offer them a safe place to congregate with like-minded women. Second, the workshops are led by AWWP writers who take on leadership roles. The seven provincial coordinators rent a facility for several hours once a month, order food, secure a guard for the duration of the workshop, and arrange for participant transportation to and from the workshops. Most importantly, they facilitate the workshop, often generating content of their own.

In 2014, AWWP expanded to include an online workshop for women writing in Dari, and in 2015 we will add an online Pashto workshop and open a branch in Ghazni province. These new activities open up opportunities for Afghan women who do not write in English. Other programs include providing laptops and Internet service for writers in need, radio broadcast of AWWP writings in local languages across Afghanistan, publication opportunities for our writers outside of AWWP, and an oral stories component to capture the voices of Afghanistan’s illiterate women.

Why do you believe that it is important for these women to share their work?

The ability to express our thoughts and feelings as humans is a crucial step in developing our sense of who we are. When we write our stories, we are able to both discover and craft our own narratives, leading to heightened awareness. We alter our perceptions as we interpret experiences on the page and are then able to project the new interpretations onto our future. Like airplanes in flight, if we are alter our path by even one percent, we end up in a different location.

Add these discoveries to being part of a workshop with like-minded and supportive peers and mentors and you have a group of writers able to reshape their defining personal stories away from the oppressive thought patterns ingrained by past experiences into an expanded narrative that creates new possibilities for the future.

What challenges do these women face in having their stories heard?

Our primary concern is always the security of the women, which is why we never share photos, last names, or other identifying information about our writers. Because we do not solicit for writers but only add via personal introduction and invitation, women who come to AWWP typically have some safe place where they can write, whether that is at school, work, home, or the writers’ cafe (if they live in Kabul). Still, women will often pull back for a time due to external pressures. We work with them to make the best choices for their personal safety. Some topics are more difficult than others to write about and while we never pressure the women, we also push them to break through fears and find a new inner strength that comes through processing and sharing their stories.

How does AWWP guide and assist these women through the process of writing?

For those of us working behind the scenes, our role is to continue sharing the writing with an ever-widening audience in order to validate the spirit and voice of Afghan women one by one. At the same time, we seek to nurture the spirit that connects us to one another. For us, this happens primarily through the Internet. It’s quite amazing, really, the AWWP community around the world, through which we strike up relationships, friendships. It’s important because it speaks to the fact that we all have something to contribute, whether we are readers, writers, commenters, or funders. AWWP enriches not only the 200+ writers in Afghanistan; it connects thousands of us around the globe, transforming each of us one word at a time.

Recent events (the murder of Farkhunda in Kabul) have brought some attention to the terrible situation faced by women in Afghanistan. How does AWWP give these women a chance at a better life?

A transformation is taking place in the hearts and minds of AWWP writers. They have gained a voice, are gaining strength in their very souls, even when conditions are not improving as rapidly as any of us would like. As if that weren’t enough, they are gaining language and computer skills, developing relationships with professional women around the world, and learning organizational skills that can transfer to the job market. They take part in organizing group events and are exposed to new and varied ways of moving through life. It is a very complex situation in Afghanistan, and our goal is always to nurture the creative spirit in the writers, that source that connects us as humans, the expression of which can be validated by others and therefore strengthened. And there are few populations as strong as Afghan women.

The work that these brave women have done to have their voices heard is inspiring. Can you share your best success story from your time at AWWP?

Success is a tricky word to define. The best responses to that question come directly from the writers’ perspectives:

Freshta says,

When I had sorrow inside of my heart and a pain in my eyes, [that] no one can see, I thought to write them down and share with the world… my life was dark and AWWP made my life colorful.

And listen to Nasima!

Four years ago before I started writing for AWWP I was a simple person who nobody knew. No one had knowledge of my…pains. Now people all around the world have communicated with me through their comments on the AWWP blog.

When my office manager saw my story…he decided to write about me for our official site. My writing has been published in other sites and in a book because of AWWP, and also in the Wilson Quarterly.

I received an invitation letter for the International Visitor Leadership Program from the American government after people at the American consulate read my writing and my personal story.

I can tell you that once I was only one lonely person, alone with my pains and my words and now I am part of a world.

What can our readers do to help these women?

There are many ways people can join the AWWP family, including mentoring (if you are a professional writer, editor, or teacher), writing notes to the women in the comments section of the blog, holding a reading in your own living room, or helping us publicize our new book this spring, just to name a few! You can even host a poetry slam at your school, as did two girls from Clarkston, Michigan, who raised $600 for AWWP at the event.

The easiest way, of course, is to write a check that will move this critical work forward. There is much to do in Afghanistan. And the women are ready to explore their potential and lead their country to a brighter future.

We also have a bilingual anthology coming out next month, Washing the Dust from Our Hearts. This is a special collection—please encourage your friends to buy and share!

Through the Ruins

Your guidebook’s tinted overlays Tidily restoreThis palace’s lost stories, as you gaze On its mosaic floor Long open to the sky, Brick walls waist-high. You stroll the royal avenue Half-paved with sand,Pocketing odd chunks, as tourists do, Until at last you stand Where, from an elbow of stone, A tree has grown. Of the temple...
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Nimona

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55 Word Flash Fiction Feature

A Long Look by Alex Canby Forty-three, Richard paints his first self-portrait. Wife and kids are gone for the weekend. Large mirror to his left, canvas to his right. Shoulders, neck, the shape of his head, and hairline look perfect. The face is blank and beige. His head hangs, face in hand. Warm tears, slick on...
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Sticks and Stones

Joanna Johnson did not think that she was special in any way whatsoever. She knew that she was a fairly good athlete in high school, and that she had an excellent memory for birthdays. However, she never felt that sense of knowing that others seemed to—that belief that they were destined for some greater purpose. The...
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Three Poems

The Answer

“I married you
for all the wrong reasons”
– Linda Pastan, I Married You
When he lost his balance while getting 
down on one knee (“So, will you?”
was how it finally fell from his lips),
when he looked up at me and
I looked down at my finger (afraid
the halo would never come off),
when I replayed the night Aunt Ellie passed 
and the way teary snot dripped from his nose
(“I’m making a mess” he moaned),
I thought of saying no.

Memory

I did not know my lips could turn blue 
while standing in the sun. But he left
and it got cold, standing alone with You—
a cold memory—creeping in through
windows, mail slots, laundry baskets. (You are quite deft.)
And now my teeth are chattering, and my lips are blue.
I remember his scent, clean and fresh like the morning dew, 
and I will not, can not, believe that I am bereft
of him. Even while standing here with You.
I have so many things to say to him, a whole slew
of accusations: perjury (his vows), murder (our dreams), theft
(my youth), and others I cannot say with lips iced over and blue.
And though I desperately want to, I’m scared to
make a sound; I don’t want to give his presence more heft
than it already has. He doesn’t deserve that after leaving me with You.
But then I hear someone screaming (is that me screaming?) Screw you! 
It doesn’t matter, though, because memories are deaf,
and if I whisper, speak, cry, shriek, my lips turn bluer
still. Because when he left, he made sure that I’d be left with You.

Self Portrait

Blonde Hair Says
I party hard and
dumb sluts have more fun, but no
one judges fairly.
My Eyes
Gold with flecks of green:
scanning the world in color,
processing in grey.
Inside the Nose
Citrus, mint, and musk
seduce the senses until
I can remember
His Lips
Reminiscent of
Red Velvet—sweet as sugar,
cake-battered and bruised.
The Heart
is a cardboard box—
four flaps refusing to close
no name, no address
My Spine
forms the letter S—
scoliosis has stripped me
of a straight backbone.
Fingernails
Brittle white tips get
clipped and polished—Nature’s proof
that I’m still growing.
My Legs
Help me leave—hurry!—
but his memory holds fast.
(I need to speed up.)
Without Feet
No measure of poise
and feeble attempts to stand...
stanzas
fall
apart

In Bold

It had been fifty-three minutes. As Paco’s phone vibrated, pamphlets and publications shuffled and scattered across the coffee table’s surface, breaking the silence that engulfed the room. All of the seats in the waiting room were empty with the exception of two across from him, filled by a middle-aged Jewish couple. All but slivers of the...
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Daylight Savings

It’s just past two in the morning when Sarah switches off her alarm, buttons up her dressing gown, and sits down to write to Amber’s husband. She accepts that this is not exactly a normal thing to do—less normal, say, than eating white bread, than wearing M&S knickers and standing in bus queues and tracking the...
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