Will We Be Forgotten?

Not knowing how to read the squeal of echoes,
we enquired about our lives by making polite queries
to the stones around us – barnacled to the earth,
they always looked pleased at everything. 
 
One said, “it is my brother that birthed you, and my
father and his brother that carried you from the navel 
of the earth and brought you here to this land of hearthstones 
and night flowers”,
 
another said it was one of his sons who trekked before 
the brother with his hands spread out among the moonflowers
to see the path was clear and that no creature 
waited in an ambush, 
 
another said it was his neighbour, a pebble only 70 days old, 
who carried a moonbeam and a constellation of 
stars to serve as lamps along the way, 
 
and another, after humming an unintelligible dirge, 
spoke of that untimely matrydom by fire that came 
when the pebble, missing his mother as was his habit, 
accidentally shot a moonbeam on a limb of a moonflower,
 
“but don’t mind him, Lung 1Stone in Ao was not told that these blooms are held 
together in an embrace”,
and like that, the belly of the earth burned from thicket to thicket. 
 
at first the shrieks escaped, 
and then a handful of scents, 
cracking the dogged earth on all sides.
 
From the distance, a shrill voice boomed with supersonic energy – 
we cannot eject ourselves out of the earth’s entrails but there is a human with us, we are letting him out, adding quickly, that their last wishes were for the human to continue their rituals in the new earth. 
 
                             after this, we heard a great silence.
 
Not knowing how else to go on from this because it still did not tell us how to partake of this now clenched history, 
we turned to the lichen, companion and mender of rocks, 
who, cupping her tentacles to collect a brimful of rain, 
told us to simply imitate the creatures around us. 
 
                               What about the stones? 
 
                               Now that the story was told, 
                               they would never speak again. 
 
Hooking ourselves to the earth and wearing the 
paraphernalia of bone and skin, 
we began to study the fabrication of life  - 
                                the preamble of society from fish,
                                the coordinates of rituals from fire,
                                the melodrama of love from flowers,
                                the paralysis of death from pauses between breaths,
and recognized that nostalgia was a pied piper,
luring even full-bodied men and women to their ends. 
 
Armed with this array of impulses, we learnt uneasily,
to live with each other, with songs and dance to gel
this newfound togetherness,
but always fearful that like licks of fire that vapourise 
into the night,
we will be forgotten.


This poem is based on the Ao Naga origin myth that believes the human race emerged out of stones at Longterok, Chungliyimti

REFERENCES

  • 1
    Stone in Ao

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Beni Sumer Yanthan Written by:

Beni Sumer Yanthan (Yanbeni) is a poet and folklorist from Nagaland, belonging to the War-Jaintia and Lotha-Naga tribe. She is an Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies in Nagaland University, Kohima.

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