Invasion • Borderlines



First, he gave me roses, spoke of
Philosophy, told me
“Look! They beat you down, do they not?
There is freedom in this world and it must be taken!”
He granted me small comforts
in a land where
I knew there was good and bad but
could not distinguish one from the other—
The sky shone blue with a smattering of rainclouds and
they all smiled and
they all worked
I could not know who spit in my water
And who did not

Then he whispered in my ears
“We can take back the uneven, we can
redistribute, we can
give freedom to everyone” and his
eyes twinkled and for a second
So did mine
And the sky shone a brilliant blue
“Equality?” I asked, hesitantly
“Yes! Equality! Justice! Civilisation!”
I was to simply nod and
He would do the rest so
I nodded

So he broke down my pillars and
Built me skyscrapers
Crushed the old poplars and
Built me roads and
Rails and
Sent all the “evil” to camps
And replaced them with his people
And the sky blazed red with industry

I worked
He worked
Everyone worked
For everyone
Just to live, no reward.
“The reward is in knowing we are all equal!”
He said, as he pushed baijiu towards me
I did not drink
This was not me
“Drink! You can do it now – drink!”
This was not me

The days passed and he entered my home.
One day
Two days
The limit had been reached
“sorry, but—”
“There you are my lovely! Make us some tea
We have guests!”
And they poured in like
rancid alcohol and I
poured them tea so that I may speak
as they drank.
But they sat and they laughed
And laughed until the twilight hours
And waiting, I had fallen asleep
Sleeves punching vertical bars into my face
Leaning against the stove
Flushed from the dying embers
Breathing in methane

I had forgotten how a blue sky once shone

“Look, dear. Can’t you see I am doing this for you?
Can’t you see how much more
Civilised you have become?”
he says. I am struggling to find the words to speak
As he no longer tries to understand mine
and I must learn his tongue
It is the nation’s language, you see
I cannot get ahead
Without him
I lie sprawling on the floor and wonder
If the “evil” ones before
Would have done the same
If this was my fault
My fate

I try to stand but his hands
Are around my throat
He is crying
“This is for you! If I gain then you gain!
We got rid of the backwards faith!
We got rid of the backwards tongue!
We got rid of the backwards culture!
Look! You still have your silk and your hair and
your art and your music – but better!
All better! Because of me!”
And I choke

I want to fight him but
He has not fed me for three days and
He tells me I cannot live without him

His arm reaches out with
A plastic cup held to my
Mouth. I sip
And as the light reflects off the water
He must have seen a twinkle in my eye
He sighs
Shakes his head
Pokes a fat finger at mine

I go to bed

The sky stays black.


I live on borderlines and subliminal spaces,
a scion of life on the edges,
or perhaps a central intersection
jealously defined as peripheral

My home is where my heart is and
my heart is scattered through the sands
of a desert I have never seen and
the algorithms where I can never be.
My heart is a light fractured
into the colours of a rainbow,
split across the edges of the world where
the blood of my ancestors coursed with power, and

Home is a travelling being;
where I am light, she is music.
Where I am colour, she is the cry of happiness,
that shades my hues into tides,
sometimes peaceful, other times frightful,
but always magnificent.

Yet, all the while
I walk the lines between
societies, between tongues,
and bridge those countless hyphens
and wonder why
the turmoil of self-identity has been thrust into a spotlight
Could we just be, without identifying?
How many schemas must I fill before
I become my own?

I live on borderlines and peripheries
A descendent of transference
and the welcoming of difference
An omnidirectional white light
Where home calls
in the form of
every stretched horizon
and every playful whirl of the wind
I breathe in


About the author

Munawwar Abdulla is a scientist, poet and Uyghur activist. She is very much passionate about raising awareness of East Turkistan, searching for cures to pain, and staying sane through writing. She has previously published poems and articles on both the Uyghur situation and her own *situation* in places like The Diplomat and various university journals.

Don't forget to tip the author

We want to support writers. If you enjoyed or were moved by Munawwar's poetry, please consider giving a 'tip'. You can tip the author as little or as much as you like, no pressure. 80% of what you donate goes directly to the author while 20% goes back into keeping the volunteer-run Subbed In & Ibis House projects afloat. Thank you!