CNN’s correspondent thinks afghani means Afghan


CNN’s correspondent thinks afghani means Afghan” by Liala Zaray came in 2nd place for the 2022 Emerging Poet Prize, selected by guest judge Safia Elhillo. We’re honored to share this stunning poem with you.

So first of all, brilliant, wow! I loved the smartness of this poem and also loved the feeling of being truly surprised at each new line, at the way this poem brilliantly and vividly collages images. I loved this speaker and the way this poem showcases the elasticity of language. I was thrilled at the endless possibilities of meaning, as taught to me by this poem. I loved being taught by this poem. —Safia Elhillo, guest judge


CNN’s correspondent thinks afghani means Afghan

after Karisma Price

I take all the afghanis in my pocket and ask them what my country smells like
Piled up, this is the longest all my afghanis have ever been in one place
I look at my afghanis and feel guilty for not having saved more
When the night comes, the neighbor watches as we count the number of afghanis in my family
and when we come up a few short she reminds us that we ought to be more careful
The exchange rate is never in your favor, she taunts
In a fit of rage my mother knocks all of our pictures off the mantle and screams
the only time you will find an afghani laying on the floor
is if it has fallen out of the pocket of a politician
How many afghanis make a US dollar?
Local afghanis gather at my community mosque for a funeral
and when the imam starts the call to prayer
They crumple as if made of paper
Afghanis of all colors can be seen strewn across the floor, but no one bends down to collect them
Everyone knows the most value an afghani has
is in the hands of an American soldier
My afghanis buy time in a refugee camp
The ones who cannot afford the price are used as kindling
In my father’s briefcase, there are afghanis preserved from every time period
He says these afghanis are for when he goes back
I avoid telling him they are out of circulation
At the market, I wipe the dust off my afghanis and attempt to buy freedom
There are not enough afghanis in my possession to afford peace
My afghanis are quietly pressed into palms and secretly traded
When ready for purchase, I place my afghanis face side up
My afghanis are ready to pay the cost of living
They lay lifeless on the table awaiting change


Liala Zaray

Liala Zaray is a Pushcart prize-nominated MFA candidate at St. Mary’s College. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in Tinder Box, Smartish Pace, Orion & The Journal. You can find her on Twitter through the username @liala_af.