Three Poems

Tahir Hamut



Let there be a man who lived through the winter
Let him fill his inner pocket with rain
and find a farmer
sowing his fields with wind seeds
and let him say to the farmer: “Here I am.”
On his return let him seek cotton at seven houses
and show it to me pressed between his fingers


Let there be an angel heading to breakfast
Let there be a blue package in his hand
Let him send the package to me express
From it let a talking bird emerge
and say to me: “Here I am.”
Let the angel return home
to braid a cotton wick for his oil lamp


In the distant wilderness let there be a tree
growing there just for me
with no one else taking notice
Let its trunk be iron, its leaves silver, its fruits golden
I will fill my inner pocket with wind seeds
and find the tree
and say to it: “Here I am.”
On my return
let me see a farmer
sitting by a window, beneath an oil lamp
drowsing, dreaming of a talking bird

            March 2015, Ürümchi

The Border

It’s hard to pry the two of us apart
and I don’t dare use force
for we could both get bruised
The way I see it
Beijing is the product of lime
The border lies just there
atop the stone wall
that closes off the backyard of the temple
Like the naked nerves of the Central Asians
impeccably serene

But the moment I mention serenity, I recall
the structural beauty of a nerve
the Pharaoh’s midget servants
your odd pronunciation . . . and all kinds
of other extremely cute ideas

            September 1994, Beijing

The Distance

We can’t defy the singing of the cicadas.
Behind the convex glass
the hospital building, the distance;
nurses’ distorted faces
watch our cartoonish party.

Downing cold water and liquor
we open the window and, half-naked,
speak sneeringly of
life, nation, girls.
Cicada song keeps bursting in
and wrecking crucial parts of our discussion.

They think up some excuse to ditch me
and leave me here alone.
The romantic tableau
of empty bottles
makes me feel
I’m in a Turkish bath.
I lock the door:
                     Time to go to work!

I feel like doing somersaults.
I feel like killing myself.

            June 1994, Beijing

translated from the Uyghur by Joshua L. Freeman