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Meat ties this epic poem by the Tatar poet Elvina Valieva together. The bitter taste of colonialism exists side by side with the love in the broth, and the fact that your home always remains home, whatever your address is.

Credits Elvina Valieva Translation: Elvina Valieva April 10 2024

in my mother’s hands are the shards of my family
piala held together with telegrams and prayers of abystai
hissing calls at midnight with me on her lap
at the international callshop

in clattering mishar tatar
voices promise to visit and bring meat
those fortunate ones who never left paradise
while we got washed away by red tsunami

tethered we bounced back
unable to fight the gravity of this place
where Idel-Volga turns south
where there is always meat on the table

my kin all have big strong hands
with solid packed under their nails
i remember those titans with early wrinkles
and wind dried faces

rough and hospitable
those hands would ladle gigantic plates
of shurpa or noodles with an iceberg of meat
and an old wooden spoon

their houses smell of cut wood and soup
there are colourful carpets on the walls
and there are colourful carpets on the sofas
and there are colourful carpets on the floors

swans and deers on the blankets
unfathomably deep pillows
mercilessly soft feather beds
where i drowned all night without sleep

from the city to the country flow knock-off Nintendo
toys, books and pretty turkish clothes
back flow potatoes that disappeared from the market
large jars of cream and milk

mutton geese turkeys chicken
rare and sinful pork
and indispensable stream of everything
that is edible in a cow

even as times grow kinder
meat always comes to the city with the family
good years at home smell like pilau
and beef tongue for holidays

the day of their arrival smells like death
like meat on the plastic sheet on the kitchen tiles
fillet stuffing heart lungs
until there’s no more place in the freezer

i dislike the seam of fat on the meat from the soup
you must eat says mom it’s our own not from the shop
while dad sucks out the bone marrow
and washes it down with hot broth

anaemic mother bows in reverence
when she peels the ruby of liver
she carefully sources it every time I visit
even now when I no longer eat meat

qyzym where did you learn this nonsense
it’s only beef, it’s not haram
it was slaughtered by our own
it was sent by your aunt Venus

my family only recently acquired
the vocabulary for expressing love
the likes of us are used to measuring it
with bәleş, dumplings and öçpoçmaqs

my tiny soft white hands
push away the plate and the love
even though I know well what I am doing
even though I know meat better than myself


abystai, an elderly woman who has ecclesiastical training and, when a mullah is unavailable, caters for the basic religious needs of a local community, such as leads private ceremonial meetings, gives basic religious training to women and children (wikitionary)

mishar, a subgroup of Volga tatars (wiki)

shurpa, soup made with thick broth and vegetables

pilau, rice dish traditionally made with lamb meat and vegetables (wiki)

qyzym, daughter of mine (wikitionary)

haram, religiously forbidden (wiki)

bәleş, large pie with potatoes, onion and meat filling

öçpoçmaq, triangular shaped small pie with meat filling (literally means a triangle)

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