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This poem is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Four Poems Hsien Min Toh
First sight of Afghanistan

The Tajik soldier waved us on our way
with an admonition not to cross the river
delivered with a smile I hadn’t expected,
and then there it was, right in front of us:
Afghanistan. Its hillsides sloped down
to the Panj, threaded with green along
indented watercourses shielded by rock.
Giant shrubs shaded the bank, magpies
flew over foam and, as the 4WD led us
from the temptation of a fordable river,
the Afghan stone edged into sullen grey
filed down to a single angle of descent
and continued rising into white snowcap.
You remained resolutely silent, even as
I saw you marvel at the valley unrolling
like woven patterns on a carpet before us.

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