In a cursed or forgotten by God
German village on a Sunday
or rather a day off
waiting for a train,
under the spring sun
I walked slowly
towards my lazy thoughts
as though to the beetles and midges
that had just woken.
Empty school. The school yard,
two football goals hung with nets,
and beyond them a familiar hillock
with grass pushing through like beard-stubble.
The other side of the street, through the tangled osier-bed,
up the steps, remains covered in earth, and overgrown with grass: this too reminds me of something,
and somehow hints at something.
If you look up from both sides of the steep slopes,
there are shards of glass, damp and dried-out
newspapers. A breeze. The sun is like the wind wandering
through the paper clouds,
if you want it’ll go on, if you want it will
On your road there are nails, staples,
rusted corks, the dried apricot of time,
a concrete path, the railway, grass here and there,
a living snowdrop or simple, ordinary wire…
In actual fact, all this
Leads one to think. But at the same time you have
A premonition: your life in its complete uselessness
Could be tied in with these things.
Do not grieve about this,
death in fact is neither high nor low.
It is not death that is greater
but the thought of the road to death
that overcomes death itself.
Notes on this poem
Hamid Ismailov was born into a deeply religious Uzbek family of Mullahs and Khodjas living in Kyrgyzstan, many of whom had
lost their lives during Stalin-era persecution. Yet he had received
an exemplary Soviet education, graduating with distinction
from both his secondary school and military college, as well as attaining university degrees in a number of disciplines. Though he could have become a high-flying Soviet or post-Soviet apparatchik, instead his fate led him to become a dissident writer and poet residing in the West. He was the BBC World Service’s first writer-in- residence. Critics have compared his books to the best of Russian classics, Sufi parables and works of Western post-modernism. While his writing reflects all of these and many other strands, it is his unique intercultural experience that excites and draws the reader into his world.