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from the August 2019 issue

A Night Sama

This poem by Tahir Hamut reflects on Sama, a type of rhythmic dance punctuated by unified shouting while dancing in a circular pattern. Its roots are in pre-Islamic Zoroastrian fire dances, but over the centuries it became an element of Sufi ritual practice. Up until 2014 it was an integral part of Uyghur festival celebrations.


Listen to Tahir Hamut read "A Night Sama" in the original Uyghur.


Sixteen writhing white lines,
Each looks different from the next.
Glimmering gracefully in the howling wind,
Unlit under the moonlight.

They sank into a pitch black recess,
Continuing their ceaseless writhing spin.
Now I count fifteen of them, one has been lost,
Their wailing won’t let me sleep, won’t let me sleep . . .

October 1991, Beijing

"تۈندىكى ساما" © Tahir Hamut. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Darren Byler and Dilmurat Mutellip. All rights reserved.

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