Returning to Kashgar

Tahir Hamut
tr. Joshua L. Freeman

Watching the mysterious unknown figure of Kashgar
I shudder in dread of glorious nights.
Girls that have married, friends that have died, a dry spring.
Eyes are a pinch of earth that has vanished from the land:
a television, cheap tobacco, dirty socks, the original of a translation.
The green bridge and the greengrocer market are dim in my memory,
I lie stretched out like a boneless animal,
my stomach is hungry, my face is dark, my heart is empty!
But in far Ürümchi someone chews an icy stone,
her eyes, her face are damp; sin before her, and God behind.
Clear steam rises from sugared cornmeal gruel,
sparrows step slowly along the power lines,
in the low sky a frightening heaviness.
Mournful elders, wayward youths, eager children,
in just three years all have grown old and ugly.
Kashgar—the moment between eyebrow and eyelash,
paper stuck to the face of the sun, eternal black ink,
a festering old wound, pathetic love.

But you
balled up wind and threw it at the sky,
then you looked at me,
rain drips from a coin-sized hole in our thoughts.

March 1998, Kashgar