The Earth of Kashgar (translated excerpts of a long poem)

By and | 1 December 2013

Other than the fact that Adili Adili Tuniyazi is a Uyghur poet, I know nothing more about him. But when I first read his work in Dangdai xianfeng shi 30 nian (Contemporary Avant-Garde Poetry for 30 Years)), I was impressed. The word zuguo (motherland) that he refers to frequently in his poem is so ambiguous that I suspect it’s not China proper. Indeed, when I read an article in Chinese by Yao Xinyong about Tuniyazi’s writing, he talks about the Chinese government not allowing Uyghur poets to use the word ‘motherland’; instead, they should use the word ‘China’.

The Roamer

A caravan and an early morning,
In a bright sun-shining city,
Sinking at the eyes of the horse with a head of white spots.
Man and the universe,
Each creates its own history,
Till the receding far star,
At a corner of the earth.
The ancient city is shining,
Strange faces everywhere,
Even if a Paris beauty is by your side,
You don’t present a comfortable smile.
You laugh, still not at ease,
I yearn, even your handkerchief soaked in tears.
In my motherland,
Your pain is your own pain.
In my motherland,
Your sorrow is revealed in your own language.
Well, visitors, even if you are a millionaire,
You still don’t have a thatched hut before a beggar,
And everyone watches you with a cold eye.
Even if you drink beautiful wine in a gold cup,
You still miss your motherland,
Once a bubble emerges.
In the night sky of Berlin,
You look at all the stars as the eyes of Uygur,
The wooden church of Virgin Mary,
Also resembles the mosque in a lane that you are familiar with.
If you go on a pilgrimage to Mecca,
Khudai obviously stays in your hometown.
If your motherland is in hell,
You always are migrants in heaven.
Ah, motherland, motherland,
Everything about you is unmatched, beautiful,
Even your pain and sorrow,
Are like fragrant four-season flowers,
Natives of my hometown are like Isaiah and Moses,
In a foreign land, even one’s own relatives are cold and insensitive.
In the motherland, if an unfamiliar child,
All of a sudden, runs past you,
You won’t forget it even in a hundred years.
If he abuses you in his own tongue,
It also sounds intimate.
In today’s world, you won’t find
Words more intimate than your own tongue.
Sometimes you, by accident, open a newspaper,
And read a poem by Paz or Tagore,
You lose interest or remain unmoved,
As you still miss the moving folk songs of your hometown.
When death descends,
You weave your own wreath,
And, with your love of the motherland,
You knit your own shroud.
When you are buried in a foreign land,
The motherland is also burying itself in your heart.
When every compatriot overseas
Misses Kashgar,
Such are their longings written at the end.

Birds Countryless birds, Crying for the season, The wind, wandering in bitterness, Carrying the withered leaves of home, Tall buildings, Standing alone, like wooden blocks What separates human beings Is only a wall, The wall, A second legend. Joining, A strange burial, Tears of the birds, Lonely and sad glass, A door that no long whips could reach. A bed, Escaping sleep, Icy hands, On the open window-sill, An ashtray, filled with sorrow. The plane, The ocean, Tears of the birds, In the train station, The old man who has just sold me figs, Are selling me figs again, Probably because he has forgotten, Or because he doesn’t know That love, within my heart, is sweeter than the figs. This love, Like the lines of a long-distance telephone, Makes it possible for me to know Familiar people, strangers and buses on the road, And I, using this love And crossing Kashgar, Become connected with far distant Latvia and France, The Esquimos in the Northern Pole, Living among the whites, The blacks eternal as the twinkling stars in the night sky, The beaches on the other side of the Atlantic And the fishing girls, The sky over the forest in Chile, The light, still moonlight, The evening glow over the waters, Like the opening red roses, The spectacular Nile, I, for one, in this tiny place, Would like to be a wave, surging from the Tarim River And emptying myself into the sea. I’d love to become A star over the Altai Forest, Shining over the grave of a loved one, For a Palestinian woman, And I, in Jesus’ language, Bless the young Jews Who’s carrying a Cross On his way to Jerusalem. In the dry, hot season on the Taklimakan, I, in desert colours, Pay my respects to the European greenness. I’d turn into the clean atmosphere, Filling the universe with happy laughter. On the map of the earth, Kashgar, like me, Is a tiny little city.
Ai Te Dore Like a quiet heart, The solemn minaret remains still, Its eyes, Speaking eyes, Khudai, The one without followers, The world, The one with mouths, Songs, Ones that have not been sung. The Attika Bazaar is a wonderful bazaar, Where Uygurs are crowding the Uygurs, Lovers come here to buy flowers, Little knowledge comes here to open its eyes, Ones short of language come here to find words, Men fight hard to buy a naan, Women, for a living, sell aosima, the brow-dyeing grass, The young men, leaning against the railings, As if they were in a strange city, Eyes slanting and mouths askance, carelessly watch, Someone comes, holding a naked baby, People come surging from everywhere, Busy washing and changing new clothes for their babies. In the imagination of the obscure poet, People can see the sun from their hearts. The Attika Minaret, Like a heart, Beats, pit-a-pat, without a sound.
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