Something familiar
when you walk into town:
kids chase a rooster.
drying clothes flap in the sun,
old men play chess in the square.
They stare at first,
but later laugh with you
at the children’s antics,
at your funny accent.

You settle,
never fully one of them
but woven like a new color of wool
into a hand-crafted kilim.


Nomads know what essentials are.
They wouldn’t bring the kitchen sink
even if they had one.
Life is hard, whittled down
to its main ingredients.

It is so much easier to build a house
and fill it with packing peanuts.


After harvest-time, we build these sukkas:
a reminder to thank God for grains and fruits,
but also for our lives and freedom.
As rookie desert nomads,
we relied on Him for everything.
He traveled with us.

The young one peers at hanging grapes,
at palm branches weaving
the booth’s roof,

wonders how God
could live in a tent.


In Kyrgyz lore, one must always ready
for the arrival of guests:
one guest especially.

If the Wanderer knocks on your door
you invite him in,
feed him your best pilaf and tea,
and he will leave a blessing for your home.
(If you don’t, your home will be cursed.)

You might not know him right away,
but when he breaks the bread,
you will see his hands.
Then you will know.

First published by Fantastic Books Publishing in their anthology Ours: A Poetic Exploration of Homeland/Motherland (

You can also purchase the anthology on Amazon here: