No Such War

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Controlled Burn

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Galway Aria

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Ms. Battles

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Inheritance

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Scandalous Women in History

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Cass and Charlene

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Determination of Incident or What is Character?

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

This Is the Beginning of Writing

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

As It Was Give(n) to Me

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

A Pair of Sonnets Against the Corporal Chastisement of Children

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Sharecroppers

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Telogen Effluvium

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Lesson in Winter

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Liked to Watch Me

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

To Our Miscarried One, Age Fifty Now

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Instructions

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

First Year

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Wild Thought

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Where Is My Lady?

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Heorot

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Half-Curse

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Real Talk: Rachel Cusk’s “Kudos”

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Peacetime

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Reliquary

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Last

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

L3FT R16HT5

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Unmappable

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

After Ever

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Backyard Boats

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Story of a Beach

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Long Days

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

A Conversation with Megan Abbott

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Problem

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Category Error

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

“Have You Ever Been In Love?”

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

All of This is Magic Against Death

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

A Beagle Roundelay

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Safe in Heaven Dead

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

“Emergency” and the Dream of Compassion

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Perfect Time to Walk Out of Someone’s Life

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Birth of Tragedy

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Velocities

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Anatomy of Color

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Blank Page As Harbour

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Aubade

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Blank Page Gets to Work

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Other Side

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

King Me

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

When I Say Jesus Was My Boyfriend

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Family Physics

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

On an Overgrown Path

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Evening Primrose

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Don’t Go Expecting

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Durian, King of Fruits

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Mermaid River

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Minister of Ministrations

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Home On It

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

On the Fourth Day

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

On the Transit of Toledo

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Same River

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Knife-Thrower Cannot Practice His Art with Pillows and Chocolates

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Where the Accident Begins

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Beautiful Young Women

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Party Line, 1962

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Five Miami Stornelli

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Lens of Porcelain

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Suddenly Seeing in Absent Sandstone How It Will Be

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Nocturne

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Constellations

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Mosul Lives: Verbatim Poems

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Theologicals

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Safety

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

On the 2017 Man Booker Prize

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Sangfroid in San Francisco

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

One Hundred Parties for Mary Ruefle

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Hear Lies Andrew Baker: An Epitome on Figures of Speech

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

A Voice Tucked Away

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

You Could Only Know Us

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Minus the Supernatural

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Visiting Friends

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Letters, 1936-1977

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Unchosen

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

A Conversation with John Jeremiah Sullivan

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Pyrite

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

And They Lived

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Piecework

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Franklin Free Clinic

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Letters Home from College: The Making of a Writer

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Elegy with Drowned Sailor and Endless Horizon

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Evening Dogs

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Rent Manual

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Emerson’s Eyes

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

The Gravestone and the Commode

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

My Lawyer Said that I Should Call Her

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Anecdote

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

On Stanley Elkin

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Self-Portrait as a Body, as a Sea

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Brood

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Maurice’s Blues

Ten days passed before the first ragged constellations of men set out for the northwestern ranges and a dozen more before Ziar came to her tent, ignoring the Yemeni boy sleeping beside her, and whispered that the time had come to go. She rolled her few possessions into her kilim and tied it loosely closed and that was all. She never saw the boy or the Orchard or the Arabs she’d trained with again.

After so many weeks of presenting arms in formation and saluting a makeshift podium and marching in place she’d expected to be sent off with a speech, or at least some perfunctory blessing, but Nazir and his lieutenants seemed already to have left. There were forty men in Ziar’s company and they fell in groggily behind him as he threaded his way through the tamarisk grove with the cliffs and hilltops blazing to the west. In time she would come to see the genius in so large a body of men moving in small groups through enemy territory but on that first day it simply seemed undignified. Ziar himself joked that the company looked like a ragpickers’ guild, or a stray herd of goats, or a congregation of drunks who’d misplaced their last bottle. But he said it with an air of satisfaction.

For two days they followed the river, fording and refording it times without number, pick-ing their way across it daintily where stones broke the surface, stumbling like mules through the current where circumstance left them no choice. The gorge grew wider and greener as the river descended and she passed the hours looking for songbirds along its banks, stopping and peering into the rushes whenever any movement caught her eye. She counted sixty magpies between the Orchard and the plain of Nangarhar and countless smaller passerines besides. She often found herself wishing for her father’s clothbound U.S. field guide, though she knew it would have been no help to her: no creature they encountered on all that long march to the front could have been found with-in its glossy, dog-eared pages.

The ancient terraced valley through which the Kabul River ran sedately eastward was so verdant and well-tended as to seem a vestige of some lost and temperate age. They kept well clear of Jalalabad but she could make out its walled gardens and the minarets of its mosques and she thought of the old Pashtun merchant she’d met on the flight to Dubai, the dealer in fabrics, and of the pride with which he’d told her of that valley. It shamed her now to think of that kindly pious man sitting across from her in the dimly lit cabin, listening to her self-important talk about the war that still raged in the land of his birth. Nangarhar, she recited as they marched in single file across the floodplain. Cradle of Peace. Forever Spring.

An hour into the foothills they came to a scattering of mud-and-wattle cottages in front of which a crowd stood four men deep around a ring of beaten earth. Thus far in each village heads had appeared in doors and window frames to watch them, emerging smoothly and spectrally out of the dark, but in that place not a single head was turned. Scattered about in the grass were wicker domes half the size of a man, covered in patterned blue cloth, like field tents for a host of tiny soldiers. She could no more imagine what purpose they served than she could guess what the villagers stood watching so intently. Ziar gave them a wide berth and so did the others. It had just struck her that certain of the domes looked like castaway burqas when the cover was lifted from one of the baskets and she caught sight of an oblong silver body and a blood-colored bill.

Loading...
Web Design and Development by Riverworks Marketing