Darde Dell

The expression Darde Dell in Persian — literally ‘pain heart’ — means sitting with a friend and sharing your sorrows

Oh, my friend

let’s sit down together and do darde dell,

sharing the pain in our hearts

I am imprisoned in darkness—

please shine your light on me

so I can bloom

I was like a dying flower

during a drought—

you gave me life.

By the help of your hand

I will grow strong again

for the harvest

Instead of bracing myself

against the waves

unleashed by war

I would like to rest

for just a few hours

in the calm waters of a lake

Take my hand

be kind

until I manage to

free myself

from the hostile forces

that bind me

I made my escape

from a volcanic realm

where I suffered like Abraham in Egypt

persecuted by Nimrod

Arriving at the River Nile

I wanted to drink a little water

My generation is waiting for peace

as a swallow waits for spring

but peace has come to me here

With your help I feel

as though I’m living in my motherland

and Oxford becomes

Kabul for me Original (in Dari)

HASAN BAMYANI is a poet from Kabul. He worked as a teacher there until 2002, when he came to Oxford as a refugee. He is the author of the collection Lyla and Manjun and his poetry is featured in the anthology The Story of my Life.

JAMES ATTLEE is a writer based in Oxford. His books include Guernica: Painting the End of the World (2017), Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight (2011) and Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey (2007), among other titles.

Note on translation: James does not speak or read Dari. He and Hasan enjoy a close collaborative process, working through poems line by line over multiple drafts to find a satisfactory translation. The English version does not attempt to replicate the formal structure and rhyme scheme of the original, instead concentrating on capturing Hasan’s voice. Artwork by Abigail Hodges