Ana Til Day Poem

I was born here, I was raised here, it’s all I’ve ever known
Yet all my life I have been taught this is my second home

My first home is where our mother tongue was born
Where she blossomed in the mountains tall
In the valleys, connecting oases
Across hot deserts and snowfall

She taught my parents how to speak
And through them spoke to me
And though right now she is imprisoned
Through my tongue she can be free

While her mouth is clamped closed
My voice will be loud and strong
They may attempt to drown her
But through us her life is long

And through that connection we can learn
Our banned, unrevised history
Be proud of who we are as a people
Full of intellect and glory

We learn to love ourselves at a time
We are told we are backwards and old
We learn the truth of our natures
So we can move forward bold

And while they try rid us of her
We speak truth into our identities
We sing loud the beats of our hearts
And the rhythms in our stories

We keep her alive in our speech
In our letters, we continue to teach
The next generation in this country
Where we can learn of our homes in peace

I was born here, I was raised here, it’s all I’ve ever known
But one day we will go back to our ancestral home
And at that time I will take my mother tongue with me
For though right now she is imprisoned, through us she will be free

 

 

Note: (“here” refers to Australia)

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By the way, I published two more poems in a small literary press’ website last month but forgot to share the news on this blog. You can check them out here. The first one is kinda about showing East Turkistan like it’s in an abusive relationship with China. The second one is about how I live at the intersections of identities, and that’s kind of like what East Turkistan was a for a while, but at what point can we stop being the “central intersection” of cultures and just be our own thing? At what point can I stop giving myself so many different minority identifiers (Uyghur, Muslim, Female, Scientist, Australian, etc etc etc) and just be myself?

Every morning I wake up and feel like I’ll break down
Every night I carry the weight of a million heads bowed down
Every day I walk with weights bearing heavy on my chest
With the moon filtering upon my face I cannot bare to rest

I cannot bare the sunlit paths that I can freely walk
I cannot bare my tears or smiles when I can freely talk
I cannot bare it yet I must, for only I can breathe
With what little breath I still have left I will see my people freed

But for right now I turn my face to hide my tears away
And all alone I weep while working as every cell attempts to pray
I’m standing tall and my body’s strong yet it feels like a facade
To who? I wonder. To myself? What kind of struggle, what jihad?

As each wave of grief passes over me, I wring my heart to dry
But it is blood, not salt water, that stings and blurs my eyes
At least blood congeals, at least my heart still beats, I think
In this ocean of turmoil, I cannot bare to sink

Mother!

I am so, so lucky my mum is safe and living in a place I can reach, albeit on the other side of the world. I couldn’t know how it feels to never see her again. My heart breaks for those thousands of mothers in East Turkistan and their children in the diaspora who cannot reach them through physical or cyber space. Here’s to those children…

 

 

Mother! I will not speak of how you birthed me
Nor will I speak of your sacrifices
I will not speak of your love or your tears
Your exasperations
I will not speak of your humanness, how you are girl and woman
How you are an individual expected angel
Surely heaven lay at your feet before those feet were hardened by callouses
No, I will not speak of your soft voice which coos me to sleep
Nor of your might when you are resolute
The way you mould like the metal poured into flames
And become the sharp sabre

Mother! I need you like the earth needs rain
Whether you flood me or leave me dry
I will hasten to drink your downpour

Mother! We have been separated by borderlines made by man
In the most unnatural accomplishments of globalisation
During times where earth is smallest and
Water is always available
I am surrounded by a sea of salt
While you by barbed wire and men who spit venom

Let me hold you one last time
Before we are separated by the heavens
Let me hear your voice, aware of your own impending sleep
These devils who hold us apart
Cannot know we are connected by roots deeper than their satellites can penetrate
I will send my soul to the moon who will
Transport me into your dreams
And the birds who travel to distant lands will
Bring to you seeds of my love
And the songs of my heart

I know you never despair, my life
I will not despair either
Though the world may darken through my tears
Let the flames in our heart burn those who dare disconnect our voices
We are the harmonious chord made from light
Refracted upon every crevice of the earth
Our songs will meet once again

Mother!

Forgive me

I love you

I will feel your embrace again.

 

Whole

As we grow old and time gets shorter, each tragedy and each instance
of happiness is spanned by but a breath. Every exhale is news in this
ever shrinking world, every strike of the hour is another dramatic
drop of a heart, making waves across the communal clock face,
each pinprick of mass a shuddering moment of energy. We are
greeted with various extremes at any moment and feel guilty
as our bodies shift in reaction to an opposing force. But
time is circular, constant, and passing. And we are
neutrons of our own, able to withstand immense
pressure, unique, individual, the centre of a

whole.

A Contemplation

“And I just hope you know
That if you say / goodbye today / I’d ask you to be true
‘Coz the hardest part of this is leaving you.
‘Coz the hardest part of this is leaving you…”

 

The song was stuck in her head. Today was the third day. A week of happenings of different intensities had weighed her down in a way. Buoyed her up and plunked her down, washed away everything then cluttered her again with pieces of shell and tiny, dead sea creatures. She wanted to cry but she was too happy, too content. She needed to sleep, but she was too alive. The clouds outside were grey. Earlier the sky had been blue, hot sun drumming down on her face with a cool breeze attempting to brush it away, as if they were stray hairs. She had been at a beach with a friend, and the salty air had worked its usual strange magic. There was something ancient and nostalgic about a new beach. The tactile difference of cool, soft sand and hard, hot rocks played with memories under her feet, and her mind fought for different ways to breathe. Walking along she’d seen a man reading a book, pants off with everything showing for the world to see. It didn’t faze her, surprisingly.

 

She thought back to the night before. They were on a roof and the breeze was cooling, just a little harder than soothing, so it hit her heart just the right way. A new moon sat at eye level, orange in its reflection of the sun, a single line painting the night. A plane had flown over it just then, close and big enough to seem to be on the same plane as the fire moon. Or cheese moon?

 

She went back. They were sitting down in a Max Brenner near the wharf, overdosing on chocolate.

 

Back. Sitting on the sand eating chips and kebabs, unwillingly sharing with the seagulls who no longer cared if the humans were eating the food they were stealing. A whale waved in the distance. No, two whales. Arching back all their mass, careless and weightless, trusting the ocean to catch them. They would always be caught by the ocean. Could we be caught by the air? I suppose the constant pressure was what kept our bodies together. The air would do no extra.

 

Night falls and she collects her thoughts. She will be meeting with some girls soon. Food. Movies. Socialising. It would be good for her. She just hoped she had the energy. It had been pulled out of her, as if by osmosis, at the bay. Sitting on the rocks, reading about labyrinths and feeling the pull of the tides while that magic she’d mentioned earlier wound itself around her, hugged her, held her. She breathed it in and it infected each cell, transfected her genes, methylated parts of her DNA.

 

The sun was no longer visible. A golden orb appeared to be in the air, but there was no light. She was surrounded by blue. She was surrounded by fog. Mist. Just enough to see that there was nothing except her thoughts in their physical manifestation. Just enough to yearn to let out, let go. A scent wafted into her line of sight and she followed it as if following a thought. Constant distractions but continuously running. Rushing yet calm. Ah. Ah. She could barely see anything now. She could barely see her thoughts, but she kept following. Waiting, perhaps, ‘til the point where she would be writing blind. Perhaps kinaesthesia would help her through. The mere memory of the actions required to create the physical manifestations of… what?

 

The scent became a cat. A cat meowed and purred like it wanted her to follow it. Blind eyed, she did. She ran for it, words left unfinished, thoughts frayed and scattering in different directions, messy, garbled, illegible. And she saw herself. Suddenly. She spied herself sitting under a lamplight, writing something on her phone. She remembered this. She’d been writing some poem or other. She walked towards her writing-self. A fat grey cat sat in front of her, watchful. She took a step towards them and both cats started to yowl. The writing-her looked up and, seeming to see nothing, looked at the fat grey and petted her. “What are you meowing at huh kitty?” They grey cat looked at her and blinked slowly. “Aw kisses to you too kitty,” she said with a smile. “I think I have to go… Thank you for looking out for me cat!” and with that the other her stood up and started to walk away. She wanted to go up to her, talk to her… But she knew what happened next. Talking to her future self was certainly not on the menu for that night.

 

She remembered how she had felt back then. The spring scent had come in early and the breeze – warm – had infected her at that time, too, in a secluded corner behind a train station that most did not notice as they rushed busily past. The moon had been full and orange, and she had talked to strangers in lieu of socialising with the group she was usually spending time with. She realised the air and the moon and the magic must always be there, no matter the time of day. They simply converged in certain places less visited by humanity and more often frequented by déjà vu. A rooftop with a neon blue sign on a yellow background. Holey rocks half-filled with microscopic marine life. Or perhaps dried out completely.

 

She knew that the light would flash strangely from the horizon now, and the perpetual sunset from the city skyline would attempt to resemble lightning. If only it could bare the same intensity as that electricity. If only it could cause the same tremors as heavy thunder, the same caress as a downpour. Alas, the only flashes came from a neighbour’s TV screen flashing on their wall, visible through a window. The only rumble was a weak heartbeat from the heavy bass of a faraway party. A mellow breeze teased her hair but backed away as soon as she tried to lean in for a kiss. Frustration was there, but so was contentment, and they sat hand in hand in a confusing juxtaposition while she thought back, wishing she could be lying on that beach, hair free, soaking into the sea, slowly dissolving.

 

“Ready to roll?”

 

“I guess”

 

–2016

Protest Poem

I wrote this poem as a performance piece for the One Voice One Step protests that happened across the world on March 15th, 2018. I would normally tell you to enjoy it but… actually, you know what? Enjoy. Joy in the revolution!

 

From: An Uyghur Girl
To: China
Cc: The World

Re:

You say that you want peace and harmony
You want the unity of ethnic minorities
You want us all to be one big family
Uyghurs, Tibetans, Han Chinese
Yet Falun Gong, Taiwan and Democracy
The five of us are Poisons? The hypocrisy
Of your words reveal Chinese hegemony

Here’s the ‘peace’ you constantly proclaim
Our freedom is in jail, our mouths detained
We face economic advances that starve and maim
Educational opportunities that divide and tame

Ethnic unity to prevent unification
Anti-separatism that enhances separation

Freedom of speech where our words are taught
And moving off script will get you caught

Religious freedoms where our God is Xi
Our only congregation is the CCP

And if we decide we want to learn our tongue
And if we decide to keep our traditions
Or if we happen to think a stray thought—
Perhaps a memory of what freedom once bought
We are chained en masse and kept in dungeons

With chains like puppet strings praising xi jinping
Chains to destroy the language of the hearts within
Chains to mould our brains to the Party’s whim

Hundreds of thousands in the moulding classes
Cramped and tortured to re-educate the masses
A mistake away from the killing gasses

And those outside, those outside, those yet to be confined
Must forget half their family or replace their seats inside
It’s not a prison, there is no sentence, they are interned for life
Or until they come out broken, a psyche suicide
Witnessing the cultural cleansing, slow boiling genocide
Unable to escape China’s overheating eyes

So they cut ties with those overseas, for communication is a suspicious act
Or students cut their wrists to bleed, for after their parents they are next
Or they are cut after blood is taken, their organs kept intact
And all the while wombs are cut to prevent hope or life in this attack

Oh, but you see us smiling on TV?
Yes, we shine with the reflection of our blood-stained properties
Our sweat and oil excellent commodities for a rapidly growing economy
and colourful dances, cruelly twisted so each step is beautiful agony
in a colonialist standard of beauty
and each breath is the slow erasure of our true identities

So Uyghurs rise up! We are unwilling to rest
before our people can freely breathe
before we can leave our boundaries

Before we can live as Uyghurs without
Being suspected of being radicalized
Without our religion being terrorized
Without our history being revised to fit a culture
ready to be commodified
without being denied to learn in our language
rather than of our language
Our way of life brutalized to fit a shoe unfit for Life
Punished when our feet bleed and swell and protest

You speak of peace then quash communication
Bridges are burned and face condemnation
Human rights and compromise face humiliation
In the push to show the world a “great Chinese nation”
That fights imaginary disease with greater inflammation
And rots with overcrowded prisons, and murders in obscurity
And creates predictive policing with militarised security
And tries to prevent any word of this from dissemination
By blackmailing and torturing our families and relations

And so here we are today to implore the United Nations
To take action on our behalf, to look into the situation
Of how China has sentenced us to an oppressive subjugation

We must stand up now to claim our rights before it’s much too late
From here on out the world will only stand to share our fate

To march for our human rights is our only salvation
We fight for our freedom from China’s damnation

 

-Munawwar

Freedom

Sought for in the dark
It is the feather reflecting light
From a pale moonrise
Giant and pregnant with glow
With a sprinkle of salt
And the sea on our tongues

It is the feeling of weightlessness
And the caress of gravity
Balancing our bodies in harmony
Our faces held aloft in delight
Like the sunflowers
Raised on stalks of power, peaceful

It is consent
And the ability to concede
The ability to move like
The deer or the falcon
And conceive wolf litters
That speak indigenous

It is a world where the only pressure
Is the atmosphere
The only binds are
relationships
the only anxiety is
whether you made the right decision

I have heard of her
And felt her brush against my face
If only I could grab her hand
And give her to those
Forcibly confined to false cocoons
Designed by malicious eyes
To produce red rayon en masse

But I cannot find her fingers
Nor does she linger for long
She is a heatwave;
An illusion, felt—
Perhaps my only choice is
To describe her, fight for her
And burn those malicious eyes with
My own aura
So that Freedom may float through
a new entrance

 

-munawwar

as grey descends and people laugh

circus_by_thelastofdays-d2ae98z
photo source

The wilting flowers raise their heads
As the sun rises above their hell:
A churning, dead enjoyment
The metal for which they fell

Weakened they stand strong
And pray like angels straight
But they are trapped at short roots
Immobile in their fate

And no one comes to save them
They’re not important enough, you see
So they grey and die and their ghosts rise high
For death is now their liberty

 

Note: I wrote this on Jan 17th 2010 and decided to edit it today. It is interesting how differently one can interpret a poem based on what they think they know of the author. The poem was originally a description of the photo above, but without the photo and in context of this blog it could easily be interpreted as a metaphor for a hopeless Uyghur situation.