Happiness in Kashgar

Uyghur Girl
“Take my picture!”

She’d seen my camera
A foreigner with a camera

“Take my picture!”

Happily, I oblige
Line her up with the street
The cyclist, passing by

A city street
In Kashgar

She smiles
All sincerity
The kind of joy
Only a child wears
As an outside layer

Innocence, we say

Seventeen years ago

I wonder who she is now
What she has lived through
Where life’s journeys
Have taken her

I wonder who she might have been
Had she been born
The girl next door
In my home town

I wonder at the happiness
In her smile
In her eyes
In the joy of her asking

“Take my picture!”

And the giggle

I wonder if
She could have been
Any happier then
Had she been the girl next door

A thought we so much like to think
Of ourselves
That we’re happier
Better off

I wonder if she is any happier now
Than the girl who was born next door
Who turned to drugs
And died in her 20s

Or the boy on the other side
Still living at home
Working for Wal*Mart
Playing his X-Box

I wonder if happiness
Is less about where you are born
Or the conditions you are born into

I wonder if it’s more about who you are
And how you choose to live
With yourself

I bet she is as happy
As I will ever be

I took her picture
And I like to think
She will always be
This happy

This beautiful

This sweet

Uyghur girl
Xinjiang, China

Taken during travels, 1998