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Two poems by Tahir Hamut

Tahir Hamut is considered one of the foremost modernist poets in the Uyghur language today. For three years in the 1990s, he was jailed in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region after being falsely accused by Chinese authorities of "revealing secrets of the Chinese state". In 2017, as more and more Uyghur writers and poets were sent to the so-called re-education camps in Xinjiang, Tahir Hamut fled the country. Today he lives in exile in the United States.

Credits Text: Tahir Hamut Translation from Uyghur: Joshua Freeman May 15 2020


A piece of my flesh
torn away.
A piece of my bone
broken off.
A piece of my soul
A piece of my thought
set free.

In her thin hands
the lines of time grow long.
In her black eyes
float the truths of stone tablets.
Round her slender neck
a dusky hair lies knotted.
On her dark skin
the map of fruit is drawn.

is a raindrop on my cheek, translucent
as the future I can’t see.

is a knot that need not to be untied
like the furmula my blood traced from the sky,
an omen trickling from history.

kisses the stone on my grave
that holds down my corpse
and entrusts me to it.

is a luckless spell
who made me a creator
and carried on my creation.

She is my daughter.



I left my house as carefully planned
My ears had marked the entire route
Countless placards and flags in my mouth
flew their resolute colors in the wind
Slogans shouting in my eyes
wiped heedless men one by one from the books
Jammed deep in the pockets of my pants
my hands seized the city’s biggest street
Shoulder to shoulder my hairs pressed forward
My nostrils drew angry spears time and again
My brain cells calmly surveyed the surroundings
My noon-colored T-shirt rumbled grandly
and smoothly unfurled across the city
My footfalls beat out a fierce declaration
this was the final declaration
I had only to raise my head
and all tyranny would crumble
I had only to puff out my chest
and that beautiful world would be built

And just like that
with my head hung low
my body bowed
I took one more lonely walk through the city


The photo was taken by Yu-Jing Huang as part of a photo exhibition on Uyghur identity. In the image, Aséna Tahir Izgil is holding the form used by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang to calculate Muslim citizens' "reliability," using categories like ethnicity and religiosity. It was this form, and the repressive bureaucracy it represents, that forced Tahir, Aséna, and the rest of their family to flee their homeland. Here, Aséna defiantly holds up the form and looks straight through it.

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