Two Ghazals by Nali

Ghazal I

The raven ringlet, wafting black against your shining face,
is smoke from incense, curling dark across the fireplace.

A hundred fractures rack my hand: a hundred vows you break.
The only cure will be to bind this hand in your embrace.

Your freckle? Fruit forbidden in the Eden of your face.
Your eyes? Two idols tempting from your brow where faithful pray.

Last night your hair caressed my head, your ringlet like a wraith,
and still my head is reeling from your moonflower bouquet.

Your lips have never offered me a promise in good faith.
All told, you are a flower, though unscented, lacking grace.

My Love, let’s wear this new ghazal of stanzas interlaced.
Your stature bears aloft the majesty of Nali’s phrase.

Ghazal II

The flood of your departure tore away my inmost cornerstone.
The burden of my thoughts of you have bent me low like slouching smoke.

Your glance has pierced my heart, an arrow from your eyebrows’ bow.
The tatters of my heart cascade in tearful overflow.

My eyes and heart are foes. I know not which to favor, which oppose,
so as to crucify the culprit, left to weep alone.

When you are gone, O Light of mine, my eyes forget their glow,
so let me sift your doorway’s dust to salve my eyes as kohl.

Your lashes’ arrows lash my heart, a tattered mesh of holes.
That was their role. With heart-stained floods, my own eyes overflowed.

By yearning for your sword-shaped brows, my heart was cleft and broached—
my soul, I know not from which breach, this going to and fro.

Whoever sees my Love will be enthralled and swear an oath:
“By God, this is an angel’s face, surpassing all below!”

If only my Beloved Flower and I could court alone,
and other suitors be as flies, to swat away in droves.

Sunflower Nali prays toward your face’s sun, head low
and sallow, ready at your gate to serve with hand and soul.



Mallah Khidir (c. 1800 – c. 1856), known by his pen name Nali, was the most important Kurdish poet of the nineteenth century. He founded the Sorani School of Kurdish poetry, a literary movement which remains influential in the Sorani dialect of Kurdish today. Most of Nali’s early poetry is devoted to his beloved Habiba, while his later poetry, written in exile, turns to darker poetic contemplations of his homeland, the crumbling Kurdish emirate of Baban in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan and western Iran.

Haidar Khezri and Tyler Fisher

Haidar Khezri is the University of Central Florida’s first Assistant Professor of Arabic. He has published translations out of and into Kurdish, Persian, Arabic, and English.

Tyler Fisher is Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Central Florida. He has published English translations of poetry from Spanish, Catalan, and Sorani Kurdish.

English translation copyright (c) Haidar Khezri and Tyler Fisher, 2020.