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Here we are again standing on the precipice of war
Paralysed by the past and the greed of our forefathers
While the inside battle has raged since birth
Good enough? I think not.
History only repeats its worst parts
They saw a green orb signalling GO GO GO
Faith in illusion the yellow-blue glow
Look but don’t touch! You’ll break it child!
But, they silly foolish daisies flitter flutter in the breeze
What nature? What love? What future? Roars the uncanny double
As it reappears, so much better now at creating disposable monstrous insects
Death? Very well, I guess we accept. We’re ***** for pain
But why walk into the river with rocks in your coat?
You’ve never been to war they gloat
As the wax drips steadily sealing our fate
And so those monstrous insects march by one by one
Hurrah! hurrah! here we go again old sport!
I sit and wait for the judge
They say he's too busy to see me
I tell him, I tell him, I tell him
I'm tired from nothing and there is a fence around my brain
And I keep trying to leap frog over it but it doesn't work
And I feel boxed in and empty and boundless
Grasping at straws to express nothing
Just the gentle hum of complacency, what a strange thing to be afraid of
To stay awake at night, busy busy, out of fear
But the judge does not see me
His guard says I have to wait
And this gate was made specially for me
And I don't know what it means
But my inner world is dead and dormant and I should dance on its grave
Never ever giving myself a moment to think again
While the sun sets on my gap year and I'm left in a mad scramble to make sense of it all
The judge bangs his gavel
Bang, bang
Stay out of my courtroom
non linear thought is great
Zywa Mar 2023
The bell, an unexpected visit:
a gentleman who asks me

to come along, I have to
I am arrested

but only for further investigation
'Please don't make it any worse!'

At the office, I get a seat
'Please wait here, then it will

be fine, it takes time
You do understand, don't you?

Accuracy is required and you are
not the only one. I wish that was true!'

We get food, just enough
in our own stench, silently

arguing around
the growing puddle of *****

over the rotting mattresses
a soft bed of worms

from the breathtaking **** barrel
It seems we've been quietly forgotten

Sometimes someone whispers
if he dares and faces

the angry glances of fear
of caning, so as not to get crazy
India (Goa in 1675, Inquisition)

"Der Process" (1925, Franz Kafka [1883-1924])

Collection "Short Sermons" #30
DogKeep Nov 2022
When you know you are late to work
but let time hang loose from your body like an oversized suit regardless,
you are sure to open the floor of the earth and feel like a pervert.

Feet will try to scuttle you with haste across leaf painted pavements toward your occupation but, glancing at the bustle of similar people spread about, you now feel embarrassed.

So you force them to slow down, almost bringing yourself to a stubborn standstill. You can't stop entirely of course. The momentum of the merry-go-round would crush your organs against the stationary facade of your body in an instance, and there'd be no blood left at the back of your brain.
Work-a-day Work-a-life
Ken Pepiton Oct 2021
Martin Buber, I and thou,
du, nicht Sie,
see, I am, thou art and it is
nothing other.

Okeh, the sound, not the letter runes
to fix my meaning
to your way of taking grace
as granted.

Simple magi?
I am acted on by your you, I see,
how strange I seem, from you, looking
for one,
I say, one, may say, what I am then not
accountible for, or something like that, eh
no-account, you know
who you seemed to be in that one book, you passed
in a trance, thinking this feels real, as any reason given
listen, we are not the first to make this connection,
it only feels crazy at first, then it turns, eh
turn turn turn a spiral *******
as from the too small to imagine past the last edge
of ever and back to now,
speed of thought imaginable due to vast increase
in how far our tools can go to gather bits
to blow up with AI assistant importance, gage,
the twisted spot a galaxy, by god, there are billions
billions of things, and I have but one breath.

What am I to be,
wait and see, I think I am the string, soaked in hummingbird
juice from the feeder, from when the oriole tipped the balance,
and soaked me,
the string,
thinking this is as absurd as being a bug, and I have been led
to imagine being tried, while being a bug,
and some time,
after all
I thought I ought to imagine Sisyphus happy, due to not knowing
the whole truth of any given circumstance,
here I and it is me and thee, the ready written
and the reader wrote. I am with you always, even, smooth, no
ripple, even to the final valley filling with peace
I made with friends since who knows when,
this is the time, we gather to measure
worth of knowing who has lied,
to whom, today, all things being open, to the art intuitive, thou
seest all things, each thing
accounted for in the grand motion going
on, make it better,
AM BIG I dare you, live on and learn off chance bets
cheat the stats, if you knew what I know
then, when it counts.

You be the judge. What good can contain the likes of us?
You and I - Buber is a mind ******, par really good..
Lawrence Hall Aug 2021
Lawrence Hall

                           The Emperor’s New Kafka

When an insect woke up one morning he found
Himself changed into a politician
And thus gatekeeper to Das Schloss, key clam
Through whom all arrival applications must pass

All shipping boxes to be checked for ticks
In a village that cannot be surveyed
Unescorted thinkers may not be seated
At corner tables in the Herrenhof

Many are desperate to be admitted
But few are desperate to be committed
David Plantinga Jul 2021
For ***** to bounce is very rude,
Unless they dropped.  Ascendancy
Is boldness we don’t like to see.    
And roundness really is quite lewd.  
For spheres, directions are the same,
And favoring the vertical
Is impudent in a mere ball.  
A proper toy should be more tame.
I got the idea for this one from Kafka’s short story Blumfeld, an Elderly Bachelor.  Those weird bouncing ***** really freak me out, like something out of The Twilight Zone.  I’ve always thought this story was one of his best and under-appreciated.  I’ve never been able to find much critical literature that mentions it.
Michael R Burch Aug 2020
Perhat Tursun

Perhat Tursun (1969-) is one of the foremost living Uyghur language poets, if he is still alive. Born and raised in Atush, a city in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Tursun began writing poetry in middle school, then branched into prose in college. Tursun has been described as a "self-professed Kafka character" and that comes through splendidly in poems of his like "Elegy." Unfortunately, Tursun was "disappeared" into a Chinese "reeducation" concentration camp where extreme psychological torture is the norm. According to a disturbing report he was later "hospitalized." Apparently no one knows his present whereabouts or condition, if he has one. According to John Bolton, when Donald Trump learned of these "reeducation" concentration camps, he told Chinese President Xi Jinping it was "exactly the right thing to do." Trump’s excuse? "Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal."

by Perhat Tursun
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

"Your soul is the entire world."
―Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Asylum seekers, will you recognize me among the mountain passes' frozen corpses?
Can you identify me here among our Exodus's exiled brothers?
We begged for shelter but they lashed us bare; consider our naked corpses.
When they compel us to accept their massacres, do you know that I am with you?

Three centuries later they resurrect, not recognizing each other,
Their former greatness forgotten.
I happily ingested poison, like a fine wine.
When they search the streets and cannot locate our corpses, do you know that I am with you?

In that tower constructed of skulls you will find my dome as well:
They removed my head to more accurately test their swords' temper.
When before their swords our relationship flees like a flighty lover,
Do you know that I am with you?

When men in fur hats are used for target practice in the marketplace
Where a dying man's face expresses his agony as a bullet cleaves his brain
While the executioner's eyes fail to comprehend why his victim vanishes, ...
Seeing my form reflected in that bullet-pierced brain's erratic thoughts,
Do you know that I am with you?

In those days when drinking wine was considered worse than drinking blood,
did you taste the flour ground out in that blood-turned churning mill?
Now, when you sip the wine Ali-Shir Nava'i imagined to be my blood
In that mystical tavern's dark abyssal chambers,
Do you know that I am with you?

Keywords/Tags: Perhat Tursun, Uyghur, translation, Uighur, Xinjiang, elegy, Kafka, China, Chinese, reeducation, prison, concentration camp, mrbuyghur

TRANSLATOR NOTES: This is my interpretation (not necessarily correct) of the poem's frozen corpses left 300 years in the past. For the Uyghur people the Mongol period ended around 1760 when the Qing dynasty invaded their homeland, then called Dzungaria. Around a million people were slaughtered during the Qing takeover, and the Dzungaria territory was renamed Xinjiang. I imagine many Uyghurs fleeing the slaughters would have attempted to navigate treacherous mountain passes. Many of them may have died from starvation and/or exposure, while others may have been caught and murdered by their pursuers.

The Fog and the Shadows
adapted from a novel by Perhat Tursun
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

“I began to realize the fog was similar to the shadows.”

I began to realize that, just as the exact shape of darkness is a shadow,
even so the exact shape of fog is disappearance
and the exact shape of a human being is also disappearance.
At this moment it seemed my body was vanishing into the human form’s final state.

After I arrived here,
it was as if the danger of getting lost
and the desire to lose myself
were merging strangely inside me.

While everything in that distant, gargantuan city where I spent my five college years felt strange to me; and even though the skyscrapers, highways, ditches and canals were built according to a single standard and shape, so that it wasn’t easy to differentiate them, still I never had the feeling of being lost. Everyone there felt like one person and they were all folded into each other. It was as if their faces, voices and figures had been gathered together like a shaman’s jumbled-up hair.

Even the men and women seemed identical.
You could only tell them apart by stripping off their clothes and examining them.
The men’s faces were beardless like women’s and their skin was very delicate and unadorned.
I was always surprised that they could tell each other apart.
Later I realized it wasn’t just me: many others were also confused.

For instance, when we went to watch the campus’s only TV in a corridor of a building where the seniors stayed when they came to improve their knowledge. Those elderly Uyghurs always argued about whether someone who had done something unusual in an earlier episode was the same person they were seeing now. They would argue from the beginning of the show to the end. Other people, who couldn’t stand such endless nonsense, would leave the TV to us and stalk off.

Then, when the classes began, we couldn’t tell the teachers apart.
Gradually we became able to tell the men from the women
and eventually we able to recognize individuals.
But other people remained identical for us.

The most surprising thing for me was that the natives couldn’t differentiate us either.
For instance, two police came looking for someone who had broken windows during a fight at a restaurant and had then run away.
They ordered us line up, then asked the restaurant owner to identify the culprit.
He couldn’t tell us apart even though he inspected us very carefully.
He said we all looked so much alike that it was impossible to tell us apart.
Sighing heavily, he left.

The Encounter
by Abdurehim Otkur
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I asked her, why aren’t you afraid? She said her God.
I asked her, anything else? She said her People.
I asked her, anything more? She said her Soul.
I asked her if she was content? She said, I am Not.

The Distance
by Tahir Hamut
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We can’t exclude the cicadas’ serenades.
Behind the convex glass of the distant hospital building
the nurses watch our outlandish party
with their absurdly distorted faces.

Drinking watered-down liquor,
half-****, descanting through the open window,
we speak sneeringly of life, love, girls.
The cicadas’ serenades keep breaking in,
wrecking critical parts of our dissertations.

The others dream up excuses to ditch me
and I’m left here alone.

The cosmopolitan pyramid
of drained bottles
makes me feel
like I’m in a Turkish bath.

I lock the door:
Time to get back to work!

I feel like doing cartwheels.
I feel like self-annihilation.

Refuge of a Refugee
by Ablet Abdurishit Berqi aka Tarim
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I lack a passport,
so I can’t leave legally.
All that’s left is for me to smuggle myself to safety,
but I’m afraid I’ll be beaten black and blue at the border
and I can’t afford the trafficker.

I’m a smuggler of love,
though love has no national identity.
Poetry is my refuge,
where a refugee is most free.

The following excerpts, translated by Anne Henochowicz, come from an essay written by Tang Danhong about her final meeting with Dr. Ablet Abdurishit Berqi, aka Tarim. Tarim is a reference to the Tarim Basin and its Uyghur inhabitants...

I’m convinced that the poet Tarim Ablet Berqi the associate professor at the Xinjiang Education Institute, has been sent to a “concentration camp for educational transformation.” This scholar of Uyghur literature who conducted postdoctoral research at Israel’s top university, what kind of “educational transformation” is he being put through?

Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, has said it’s “like the instruction at school, the order of the military, and the security of prison. We have to break their blood relations, their networks, and their roots.”

On a scorching summer day, Tarim came to Tel Aviv from Haifa. In a few days he would go back to Urumqi. I invited him to come say goodbye and once again prepared Sichuan cold noodles for him. He had already unfriended me on Facebook. He said he couldn’t eat, he was busy, and had to hurry back to Haifa. He didn’t even stay for twenty minutes. I can’t even remember, did he sit down? Did he have a glass of water? Yet this farewell shook me to my bones.

He said, “Maybe when I get off the plane, before I enter the airport, they’ll take me to a separate room and beat me up, and I’ll disappear.”

Looking at my shocked face, he then said, “And maybe nothing will happen …”

His expression was sincere. To be honest, the Tarim I saw rarely smiled. Still, layer upon layer blocked my powers of comprehension: he’s a poet, a writer, and a scholar. He’s an associate professor at the Xinjiang Education Institute. He can get a passport and come to Israel for advanced studies. When he goes back he’ll have an offer from Sichuan University to be a professor of literature … I asked, “Beat you up at the airport? Disappear? On what grounds?”

“That’s how Xinjiang is,” he said without any surprise in his voice. “When a Uyghur comes back from being abroad, that can happen.”…

With my translations I am trying to build awareness of the plight of Uyghur poets and their people, who are being sent in large numbers to Chinese "reeducation" concentration camps which have been praised by Trump as "exactly" what is "needed." This poem helps us understand the nomadic lifestyle of many Uyghurs, the hardships they endure, and the character it builds...

Iz (“Traces”)
by Abdurehim Otkur
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We were children when we set out on this journey;
Now our grandchildren ride horses.

We were just a few when we set out on this arduous journey;
Now we're a large caravan leaving traces in the desert.

We leave our traces scattered in desert dunes' valleys
Where many of our heroes lie buried in sandy graves.

But don't say they were abandoned: amid the cedars
their resting places are decorated by springtime flowers!

We left the tracks, the station... the crowds recede in the distance;
The wind blows, the sand swirls, but here our indelible trace remains.

The caravan continues, we and our horses become thin,
But our great-grand-children will one day rediscover those traces.

The original Uyghur poem:

Yax iduq muxkul seperge atlinip mangghanda biz,
Emdi atqa mingidek bolup qaldi ene nevrimiz.
Az iduq muxkul seperge atlinip chiqanda biz,
Emdi chong karvan atalduq, qaldurup chollerde iz.
Qaldi iz choller ara, gayi davanlarda yene,
Qaldi ni-ni arslanlar dexit 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.

Other poems of note by Abdurehim Otkur include "I Call Forth Spring" and "Waste, You Traitors, Waste!"

My Feelings
by Dolqun Yasin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The light sinking through the ice and snow,
The hollyhock blossoms reddening the hills like blood,
The proud peaks revealing their ******* to the stars,
The morning-glories embroidering the earth’s greenery,
Are not light,
Not hollyhocks,
Not peaks,
Not morning-glories;
They are my feelings.

The tears washing the mothers’ wizened faces,
The flower-like smiles suddenly brightening the girls’ visages,
The hair turning white before age thirty,
The night which longs for light despite the sun’s laughter,
Are not tears,
Not smiles,
Not hair,
Not night;
They are my nomadic feelings.

Now turning all my sorrow to passion,
Bequeathing to my people all my griefs and joys,
Scattering my excitement like flowers festooning fields,
I harvest all these, then tenderly glean my poem.

Therefore the world is this poem of mine,
And my poem is the world itself.

To My Brother the Warrior
by Téyipjan Éliyow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I accompanied you,
the commissioners called me a child.
If only I had been a bit taller
I might have proved myself in battle!

The commission could not have known
my commitment, despite my youth.
If only they had overlooked my age and enlisted me,
I'd have given that enemy rabble hell!

Now, brother, I’m an adult.
Doubtless, I’ll join the service soon.
Soon enough, I’ll be by your side,
battling the enemy: I’ll never surrender!

Another poem of note by Téyipjan Éliyow is "Neverending Song."
daffodil May 2020
Most captivating beauty
in tragedy
Her melancholic existence
quiet agony
forever unreachable
she’s otherworldly

Blue in colour
and blue of mind
if only I
could reach inside
feel her warmth
and our souls entwined  

Never together
always apart
a losing battle
two lonely hearts
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