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Munawwar Abdulla

Munawwar is a co-founder of the Tarim Network, a scientist, and a passionate writer and Uyghur literary translator. She also works on initiatives like the Uyghur Collective. Her writing has appeared in places such as SubbedIn, Cordite Poetry Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, Asymptote Journal, and Soc Res Journal. 

Find more of her work on her website.


What Are You?

Who cares about identity!?
Are we here for a fun time?
The run time for this movie is
Three hours and twenty-eight minutes:
A long time even if we’re on time if we
Unwind and confide
Remind one another
The high tides and the low tides
And the show times and the sun dried
Tomatoes get better with some thyme.
All we have are one-liners and stop
Watch timers.

I am a bit red from the sun I am
A bit unwell and undone and
Unhinged, on the run from
My crisis, what crisis? Really, there was naan.
I was the one who mixed and mixed
From pure bread to pun. Intentionally,
Or unintended maybe, they asked, where
Are you from? I said down under, I was from
The south of Australia. Centre, the central
Steppes of Asia I said under there, you know,
Under the cloth there is a sloth who
May be too lazy for fun. From lazy eye
To lazy eye we questioned conundrums. We
Sat in circles and created referendums,
Sought markers from PCR runs and
Shook fists at PRC guns, hid behind
Great wonders and drank red serums,
Hoping for an answer to our mind’s deliriums.

But who cares about identity?
Are we here for a fun time?
I’m here to place an arm around her, I’m
Here to go on a verdant adventure
With people to whom food is the greatest pleasure
With people who throw the greatest treasure
Into the pits of the fire, face still hot with desire
Isn’t that fun?

In the orchard of apple groves
She waits for her lover by an apricot tree
I think she drove herself to madness deliberately
A transcendental madness, lovingly
Wondering where on earth they could be
Together, together with no identities.
They spoke until the end of time, until
The sun burned a hole through the sunnier climes
And we stopped watching the clock to dig deeper into
This soliloquy. Who cares about identity..?
I just came here for a fun time and
Honestly I’m feeling so attacked right now.

I say, perhaps I’m wired this way, always
Tired this way, always inspired yet
Dismayed to see what transpires in

First published in: Cordite Poetry Review

Issue 100: Brownface

Art: "I see you seeing me" by Roberta Joy Rich

A search for the homeland

Entrapped in the harvest moon
Cocooned in false silk
Reflected upon a foreign land with
False memories of a past unlived
I am alone where
No ancestor has ever been

The harvest moon whispers
Silver edges flashing a snow-capped abyss
Reflections of fire like desert dunes
My soul is hers
Ensnared and afraid
Eternally cast in a reflection on an ocean
of a foreign island

unable to return to the Tengri Tagh
Tocharian plains;
No howling wolves run by wild horses
With the screech of a hunting hawk
silhouetted against that same moon
I am alone

She says:
Remember the caravans, the swirling spirits?
Remember the sweetness of honey melons
And crystal sugar tea?
Remember me? As we drank etken chai and I
sang you to sleep
While your parents in Ili
Spilled blood for freedom
still just out of reach?

But she speaks to
A past life,
with knee length braids and
the breath of the Taklimakan.
I am but a shadow cast
Escaping the imprisonment
back home yet
ensnared by the moon

She tells me I am
not yet done
until I remember
what has not yet begun.
I cannot return ‘til
Home is free,
from the grips of her
when I can emerge from
the false silk riches of
my foster home
and fly
to where my spirit keeps watch
above the Central Asian river valleys
trapped and protected in
the harvest moon

First published in UNSweetened

Men aldandim shu tolun aygha,
Oran'ghan idi u yalghan yipekke,
Yochun makanda chachmaqta shola,
Ötmüshte mewjut bolmighan saxta eslime goya.
Tenha yashimaqtimen,
Héchbir ejdadim yashap baqmighan bir zéminda.

Tolun ay pichirlaydu,
Kümüsh qirghaqlar qargha chümkelgen perqlerni eslitidu.
Yalqunning eksi xuddi qum baraxanliri kebi,
Méning rohim uning ilkide.
Meptunluq we qorqunch ichide,
Okyan'gha tashlan'ghan menggülük sholisi
Bir yat aralning.

Ilajim yoq tengritaghqa qaytishqa,
Toxarlar makanigha.

Huwlighan böriler we chapqur atlar kelmeske ketti,
Owchi lachinlarning chirqiraq sadaliri bilen.
Oxshash bir tolun ayda zahir bolup,
Tenha men özüm.

U qiz deydu:
Karwanlar, tolghan'ghan rohlar ésingdimu?
Tilni yaridighan qoghunlarning shérinliki yadingdimu?
Nawat chaylarchu?
Yadingdimu men? dep soraydu. Etken chaydin kéyin
Naxsham bilen séni elley éter idim.
Ata-aniliring ili wadisida
Tökken idi hörlük üchün issiq qénini,
Yételmigen armanlar qaldi uzaqta.

Emma u qiz shiwirlaydu
Kechmish hayatqa.
Téqimigha chüshken sumbul chachlar,
Teklimakanning issiq tiniqi.
Men peqet bir tashlan'ghan saye,
Zindan'gha qayta bend bolushtin qutulush üchün tirmishiwatqan.
Yurtum emma
Tolun aygha esir bolghan.

U manga, tekrar - tekrar
Téxi menzilge yetmigenlikimni shiwirlaydu,
Taki men esliyeligüche,
Némining téxi bashlanmighanliqini bilgüche.
Emma men qaytalmaymen
Taki ashu weten hör bolmighuche,
Tolun ayning apetlik changgilidin
Qachaniki men qutulghanda,
Ashu saxta yipeklerdin
Méni asrap östürgen wetinimni.
Uchup barghum bar
Rohim manga tikilip turuwatqan ashu makan'gha,
Ottura asiyadiki derya boyigha jaylashqan ashu wadigha,
Shu tolun aygha esir bolghan we uning ichide panahlan'ghan weten'ge.

Translated to Uyghur by Tahir Hamut

my(nd) state

A series that incorporates an interpretation of cultural motifs and language in surreal settings. An imagination of a modern Uyghur inner sanctum.

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