Qahwah (Amma, The Woman Who Came From That Other Country)

Afternoons where she would teach me how to rake my own kohl by lidding the lit wick of an earthen lamp with another empty lamp, the ritual of darkening our eyelids and fingertips with the leftover soot would be followed by another involving two cups of qahwah.

It is what Afghans call their tea.

She didn’t remember much of Badakhshan except that once when the opium fields were set ablaze, they burned for a week straight. All memory is false, my mother would remind her, so she could sleep peacefully. She wore a lapis lazuli pendant and when she brewed my mother’s tea, it dangled over the plumes of steam billowing from the copper vessel like it were trying to hypnotize the tea leaves.

My country is a beautiful heartache, she said.

We didn’t have a samovar so we made it the Indian way; sometimes in a kettle, other times in an aluminum pot. I palmed the saffron before she let me drop it into the hot water. The thin strands wriggled like mini koi fish. She always made me smell the cardamom before we added it to the brew. We were organized. I peeled the cinnamon, she arranged the almonds. We sat under my grandmother’s favourite guava tree and let every sip submerge the tiredness of summer down our throats. The tea is as green as my wound, she once said. Then we marked the spot in the kitchen garden where we would start growing our own lemongrass.


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Scherezade is a jungian scarab moonlighting as a clinical psychologist. Her first collection of poetry Bone Tongue was published by Thought Catalog in 2015. She can be found squeeing about militant rabbits at and

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