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?

Salam Deng

So I asked someone for Uyghur rock song recommendations and she delivered. One of the songs she sent was this one called “Salam” by Tingshighuch (which means earphones haha). She really liked it because the lyrics are actually adapted from a poem by Abdurehim Otkur called Salam Deng. I loved it so much I made a lyric video with English subs on YouTube 🙂

 

But the original poem is a bit longer. So I translated that too. Because I’m procrastinating a lot right now. 

 

Salam Deng

Yelpünüp ötken shamallar, qulaq séling sözümge
Qolgha élip romallar tutung yashliq közümge

Éship taghlar üstidin bérip yéting yurtumgha
Yash yürektin séghinishliq salam éting yurtumgha

Baghqa bérip yetkende güllerni öpüp ötüng
Gul tüwide olturghan dilberni söyüp ötüng

Taghlar éship ötkende chécheklerge salam deng
Derd-elemde örtengen yüreklerge salam deng

Zulum bilen yardin juda mehbublargha salam deng
Qarangghu zindandiki mehbuslargha salam deng

Héch nersedin ghémi yoq bégimlerge salam deng
Atisi zindanda ölgen yétimlargha salam deng

Étizdiki emgeklik déhqanlargha salam deng
Baghda qan-qan yighlighan baghwenlerge salam deng

Yétim oghul, tul xotun bicharemge salam deng
Parche nangha qul bolghan diwanemge salam deng

Yat qollirida xarlanghan chimengülge salam deng
Nomus üchün jan bergen reyhangülge salam deng

Zöhresidin ayrilghan tahirlargha salam deng
Tili baghliq, dili daghliq shairlargha salam deng

Her jayda xar, her nege zar zeiplerge salam deng
Özi miskin, dili ghemkin ediblerge salam deng!

1945-yil Iyun, Lenju

 

Translation:

Say Salam // Send my Salam

To the winds that fan by me, lend an ear to what I say
Hold your scarf up to my eyes and wipe my tears away

Climb over those mountains and reach over to my homeland
From my tearful heart send my homesick salam to my homeland

As you reach the orchards, caress the flowers as you pass by
Kiss the beauty who sits below the flowers as you pass by

As you pass over the mountains, send my salam to the blossoms
To the hearts that have suffered from distress, send my salam

To the lovers separated by oppression, send my salam
To the prisoners in those dark dungeons, send my salam

To the Begs with not a care in the world, send my salam
To the orphans whose fathers have died in gaols, send my salam

To the laborious peasants in the farmlands, send my salam
To the gardeners who bitterly wept in orchards, send my salam

To the abandoned boys, the widowed women, to the wretched, send my salam
To the beggars who slave for a piece of bread, send my salam

To the wild flowers humiliated by outsiders, send my salam
To the basil flowers that died for humility, send my salam

To the Tahirs separated from their Zohres, send my salam
To the poets with orchard tongues and black-stained souls, send my salam

To the feeble, bullied everywhere, longing for all, send my salam
To the destitute writers with sorrowed souls, send my salam!

June, 1945, Lanzhou

 

So I didn’t quite know what to title it. I could have just translated it as “Say Salam” which I think works perfectly fine, but I’m not sure if people outside of the culture would understand it. I almost translated it as “send my greetings” but that would’ve just ruined it, I think. Salam is such a mood. People can look it up. Google is a thing. But yeah idk?

I don’t actually know what “öpüp ötüng” means, even though I translated it as “caress… as you pass by”. Wild guess. The word wasn’t in the dictionary I use. Probably because the poem is from 1945. He also uses the word “Dilber” which is a girl’s name which apparently means “beautiful woman”. I always thought it was a type of flower but I guess not. He does use Chimengul and Reyhangul which are both names of girls as well as plants – pretty sad that Reyhan is a girl’s name in Uyghurche but in English it’s Basil, which is a guy’s name. I ended up translating them to English but the double entendre’s been lost :/

I kept Beg as it is because it’s a type of leader or official and I feel like it works in English the way Sultan or Bey works.

Again, references to Tahir and Zohre, an epic love story/tragedy popular amongst Turk cultures.

Interestingly, he says “bichareMge” and “diwaneMge” which means MY wretched/begger rather than THE, which would’ve been “bicharige” or “diwanige”. I wonder if that was to keep the flow of the poem, or if that was done with some sort of meaningful intent. I translated it as “the” rather than “my” to keep the flow though.

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.

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

Iz (Trace/Tracks)

Iz was a poem we had to memorise at Uyghur school. I distinctly remember performing it with another student at a Nowruz event. It’s a straight forward yet complicated poem, with some great wordplay that goes beyond my understanding of the language. It gained new meaning in this essay I’ve mentioned before on this blog. In it, there is a translation which I have mixed feelings about (starting with the original):

Iz 

By Abdurehim Otkur

Yash iduq mushkul seperge atlinip mangghanda biz,
Emdi atqa mingidek bolup qaldi ene nevrimiz.

Az iduq mushkul seperge atlinip chiqanda biz,
Emdi chong karvan atalduq, qaldurup chollerde iz.

Qaldi iz choller ara, gayi davanlarda yene,
Qaldi ni-ni arslanlar deshit cholde qevrisiz.

Qevrisiz qaldi dimeng yulghun qizarghan dalida,
Gul-chichekke pukinur tangna baharda qevrimiz.

Qaldi iz, qaldi menzil, qaldi yiraqta hemmisi,
chiqsa boran, kochse qumlar, hem komulmes izimiz.

Tohtimas karvan yolida gerche atlar bek oruq,
Tapqus hichbolmisa, bu izni bizning nevrimiz, ya chevrimiz.

 

Trace

Translated by T. Abdurazak, S. Saydahmat

We were young when we started our journey,
Now our grand-children are able to ride on horses.

We were very few when started our journey,
Now we’re advancing and left traces on the desert.

Our traces are in the deserts and in the valleys,
There are many heroes buried in the desert with no grave.

Don’t say they were left without graves,
Their graves covered with flowers in the Spring.

Left the crowd, left the scene, they are all faraway,
Wind blows, sand moves, yet our trace never disappears.

The caravan never stops even our horses become thin,
Our grand-children or great-grand-children will one day find those traces.

 

And now I found another translation which I think captures more of the poetic essence of it (although I don’t think you could ever translate this poem perfectly). I’ve transcribed it from this Facebook video. He seems to translate “Iz” as “Tracks”.

 

Translated by Michael from Atlan

Young we were when we set out on our great journey
Now our grandchildren have taken up the reigns

Few we were when we set off on our tiresome way
Now we, a caravan, leave tracks in the wilderness

Left were our tracks in the wilderness, even upon the peaks of mountains
Left were our heroes unburied in the dry desert

Yet they were not left unburied where the tamarisks grow red
They lie in tombs of blossoms and flowers of spring

Our tracks remain, our legacy remains, everything remains at a distance
And though the wind may blow, the sands shift, our tracks will never fade

Though our horses waste away, ceaselessly, our caravan presses on
In the end we leave these tracks for our progeny one day to find

 

…I’m not going to attempt this poem until I know Uyghurche better. Enjoy!

 

Bu Dunya (This World)

I have always enjoyed Kuresh Kusen’s music. I remember our local mosque sold Kuresh Kusen CDs one time, and my dad brought one home. We listened to it on road trips interstate. As a young child growing up in the west, I’d had a bit of an aversion to very traditional Uyghur music, but somehow that didn’t matter with Kuresh Kusen. There was something about his music that I really connected to. So, recently, I remembered how great his songs were and have been looking up the lyrics. Here is a translation of one I found on this forum thread:

Bu Donya

Bu donya, obdan donya
Qayghuluk zindan donya
Qoynida hikmet tola
Undimes pinhan donya

Bu donya shundaq donya
Tulkiler owlaydu yilpiz
Yolwisi ketken tugap
Maymoni sultan donya

Bu donya shundaq donya
Burkiti tezgen donya
Hoqushi towlaydu ezen
Quzghuni mezin donya

Bu donya shundaq donya
Ussughan cholde yatar
Alimi ketmen chapar
Zalimi haqan donya

 

My translation:

This world is a good world
A prison-for-sorrow world
Plenty of wisdom in its hold
A secret, silent world

This world is that kind of world
The foxes stalk the leopard
The lions have left, extinct
The monkey-becomes-Sultan world

This world is that kind of world
The eagle-reined-in world
The owl calls the Azaan yet
The raven-becomes-Muezzin world

This world is that kind of world
The thirsty lie in the deserts
The intellects work the fields
The tyrant-becomes-Khan world

 

Comments? I was wondering if I should keep it as “The” or change it to a possessive “Its” as that might be more accurate. It’s the world’s monkeys that become Sultans… Anyway, I’m not totally sure if I’m right about this, but the poem sounds a bit sarcastic, but at the same accepting of the unfairness in the world. Like a double- or maybe triple- negative.