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POEM: To "Sensitive Words"——Ilham Tohti

The Poem was written in 2012. At that time Ilham Tohti was not arrested, but he became one of “Sensitive Words”. This poem dedicated to him.

Special thanks to Luisetta Mudie for her great help and translation!

To "Sensitive Words"*

By An Ran  Translated by: Luisetta Mudie

I have enough to bear,
but my greater care is for you who have no-one.
It soaks my soul in blood and tears.
A hundred-year-old maqam has opened up this wound, my friend.

It wasn't until I got your message
that I lost my innocence,
caught a glimpse of my own inconsequential end.

I realised then that some forms of life
aren't necessarily welcome.
Crows, for example. You and me.

Full breasts and broad hips are popular;
the purest contradictions of the night-market.
Roses and hopeless desire, beautiful.

But we'd be welcome
to sleep in a treasure vault under a tomb.
The souls in there are long gone,
their hearts and inner organs encrusted
with millennia of iron and stone,
just enough to feed the world's drunken stupor.

Heavy rains come to the grasslands,
and as the last storm rumblings fade away,
only the crows refuse to leave,
rolling their eyes and croaking out the truth
like splashes of ink:

as unwelcome as a black light
in broad daylight.

* “Sensitive Words” is a reference to a list of banned keywords on China’s heavily censored internet and social media. The subject of the poem is so politically “sensitive” as to have been censored by the author.

**A maqam is a musical mode commonly found across the Middle East and in Turkic cultures.

《致敏感词》 On October 19, 2012

Who is Ilham Tohti?