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