INKPOT - Poems : Desmond L Kharmawphlang

In the trackless plains of folklore,
I read the story of how one lives backwards.
With parched hearts too full to understand,
we entered into the land itself,
we bled into its veins.

Here in Ri-Bhoi, we celebrate the ceremony of regret,
the symphony of sorrow.

Today, a song, light as lea,
soft as the melting dew of dawn
got picked by a vagrant breeze from the
sacred forest where Dising buries his heart.

It sang its way across the scorching plains
to protect itself because its tunes kissed life into trees,
into the humming heap of insects, into the soul
of a now stranger poet who is weeping in a faraway place.
The poet, crushed and lonely cried out his symphony of sorrow
to the winds and his tears fell on Dising’s forehead, furrowed with
toil and disease.

Dising cries because the poet-child of his was in pain
faraway in a city where even his dreams cannot reach.
Dising pleaded with the song to rescue the vagrant son birthed by
these Bhoi jungles.

The song settled on the pain-riven heart of the prodigal poet,
squeezed itself of sap and watered it with love.
The poet was able to sleep. The song, smiling gently, died
as only a sister can die for a brother

I met him the first time
when light rain fell against
the window of a hotel room
overlooking the Himalayas.
It was nineteen years ago,
many stories, much laughter
poetry of unknown hemispheres
exploding far above the satin
sky of Sikkim.

He retired as a school teacher
weathering the turbulence
of the movement in the hills of a Mao village
He wrote his best lines there,
torn between his love for  teaching
and returning to the turbulence
of the movement in the valley.

I met him again when light
rain fell against the window
of a room of the Regional Institute  of Medical Sciences.
He lay curled upon on the bed
breathing quietly while the daughter
watched over tubes pushing life into his feeble body.
Looking at me for a long time, the corners of his eyes
started to move, his lips trembled,
dentures almost falling off.

“I know you,
you have been there amidst the
ruins of my ancient mind
I remember your name because
I can still think and say

I wept a little for the poet who
made me laugh when nineteen
years ago I was searching for
losses among mountain streams faraway.
The daughter also wept
because I made him happy after a long time
of suffering the silence of chronicling the
windsong of his life.

At the village plaza, I sat and waited for my poem to return home.
The face of the sky is beaten with exhaustion and the
jungle leans more precariously on the evening.

I carry a tired song day in, day out, and no matter how
lustily the cicadas click, I am out of tune.

The edges of this helpless season shatter and fall to the ground,
deserted by their own voices
The Umngi river washes the feet of these adopted hills with ghost-like silence.

Leaning on the bamboo gate of my hovel
I sill wait for my poem to return home.

They came for him one evening,
packed his bag and even carried it to the jeep parked
on the roadside, near the dry public water tap where oil containers line up,
marking space in a spaceless locality.
They offered him cigarettes calling him uncle as the jeep
sped away from the city in the throes of a dusk he was
not to see, as he told me, for some time.
The moon was already stripping off his gossamer robe ready
for his bath.
They plunged into the orchestra of night insects and followed
the moon as he swam the length of his misty pool.
They rested at dawn,
waiting for the fifty- four year old frame of their captive to revive.
It was not easy with gout beginning to torch flames in my friend's joints.
They called him teacher and urged him to lecture on the magic of myths
 to make blood sing about unity.
We are one, they said, and
our common history is inscribed in memory of stone.
My friend did his share of tutorials in the jungles
but he confessed that the practicals
were too exciting for his old bones.
When the month was over, they half carried him through the bamboo jungles.
He woke up by the side of
his gate.
The water tap was still dry, and the oil containers
still jostled for space on ground where
no space can be seen.

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