Skip to content
Give readers a window on the world. Click to donate.
from the September 2012 issue

Lovers in Samarkand

(An old song that wells up in this poem)

Before midday, round about eleven
in the bazaar by the Boltabay post with its attached
loudspeaker, the sun is just heating up.
Like a wheel not hurrying to go out on the road of Ibodullah the gypsy,
the tambourine, and after it the cymbals,
flutes and the violin,
the horses, saddles and reins, then a beauty in a palanquin
and a voice looking out from under a veil...

You breathe in the  burning air,
your lungs fill with the air of the flute,
the train squeaks off into motion, your nose
starts getting irritated by the dust—following you is the clank
                                              of the wheels
or the tambourine, or your heart in the airlessness before it stops
gives out its thud bak and

‘Come to me with your curls like snakes and your kohled eyes’

Okhun the meat-pie maker fires up his clay oven for the midday
Temur the blacksmith beats his chopper on the anvil
with his hammer. The sun draws in the air
and climbs to the zenith, shortening the shadow from the post,
so that it can hide not knowing where to find a place in the craziness.
Blind Sotim sharpening his knife
fountains out sparks from his palms at the shadow . . .

As I search for the world leaf after leaf.

The melody ripened. The melody got through.
It hit the zenith and with a sound, tak, collided with the orphaned,
needed-by-no one sun, and seemed to understand
all this unnecessariness.
If a cloud goes it doesn’t return.
The melody momentarily descends from the heights where
the mad sun, already yellowed from its beating down by the sky,
and the moon, go around the vault of the sky.

The melody is like a woman baker, remaining at midday
with the teahouse man, red Katam, having dropped her husband,
Sobir the guide, who has gone off on a journey,
and gathering up her skirts hurries off to the neighbors.

There is no one to sprinkle the hot earth streets with water
to give the town a breather. 

© Hamid Ismailov. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2012 by Hamid Ismailov and Richard McKane. All rights reserved.

Read more from the September 2012 issue
Like what you read? Help WWB bring you the best new writing from around the world.