There’s something about a railroad which passes through a village,
no station to sanction its passing, just an opening people slide through.
A farmer might pause before driving on. His load at right angles to the rails,
no barriers to this crossing, just the train which passes slowly, the road
little more than a track, some tarmac, some stones, the fields behind him,
and houses to the side, dishevelled, with dogs on long chains and scruffy
chickens scratching earth and open plots that run to the rails in disorder - he pauses,
that farmer, sweats, rubs his head and looks like my father stripped to the waist
on his way home for supper, chaff stuck to his skin. Dust will adhere.
The day darkens towards nightfall, nothing is permanent, so we go onwards,
the village broken open like a husk of corn and all these sentences unfinished
A footnote to Bukhara
He carried “a scimitar given him by a Tartar Chief in Bokhara”
In Khorasan there’s no other city
with so many names.
They arrived and departed
on the tongues of traders
who wandered the silk roads.
In Arabic it was known as
Copper City, City of Merchants
and in Tang Chinese was styled
Place of Good Fortune.
Here Tajik is spoken—
stolen from Persian;
the name of the language
meaning foreigner, stranger.
En route we’d seen wolves and wild-cats,
and near to the villages, hares.
The deer were called Jir and Sirna,
hart and roebuck, skittish leapers.
Eagles and hawks soared above
while ortolan swarmed like larks
on a stubble field in England.
Ascending Mount Lepar we startled a bear,
aimed for the heart and the head,
although we’d no need of the flesh.
We dyed the earth red with his blood
and gave him to Georgy, our Kiraidji,
as he fastened the corpse to his horse.
When we quit the next town on our route
Georgy’s purse bulged at its seams;
twenty piastres from the state
for harvesting vermin, thirty for the hide,
to say nothing of the inn keeper’s coin
for the quarters he salted and dried
to cook on the hearth of his han.
 Actually, the word is Kirdžija – a merchant or travelling salesman – in this case employed as a guide
 slouga pokorni (obedient servant)
 dobro s’dravie (good)
(from Captain Spencer’s account)
Copyright © Janet Sutherland, 2021.