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Mamang Dai

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Mamang Dai

Green-tailed Sunbird Male, Lava. Photo by Nitoo Das


I thought you had died
and no one was telling me.
Who would say
Look, the rain clouds are swollen
because they cannot speak.

Who would say,
the loveliness of trees has failed this year,
they wait in vain;
because the sun is tight - lipped
about time and distance.

Like a falling net
the wilderness has trapped us
in the songs of approaching clouds.
Sheltering in this town
poised on the serrated edge of moments:
Look! Step by step, I have drawn a field
immense with possibilities.


In the days when we were hunters,
hunting with our mouths and eyes,
every triumph and error
was one more reason to respect the other
suspended in a dark ocean
awaiting the arrival of nutrients, supply of air,
rising to the surface, coveting the same things.

There is a burden of the deep.
A history of war when water rose up
chasing fire into rigid stone,
and tearing branches off trees
for algae and seaweed
to feed a tribe of exiled giants
separated in space
with a memory of yearning, dreaming of land.

It was the fire god who changed the lines,
the territories of sea ice, swamp, a coastline,
separating the eagle and whale
One day, when a glimmering eye
pierced the curving darkness
driving away the hard cold
and conjured up the birth of time,
when our world was but a thought
waiting to be born.
A slow tide brushes the edge of continents
Transparent heart, it is your time to rise.
There is a way to re - enact the past.
To say whatever can be felt, is language.
Perhaps this life is but a spark, imagined.
But a spark loved, nurtured through centuries
that buries me knee - deep in hope
with songs of courtship and heat trapped in my bones,
washed with wind and water,
smeared with the colours of the sun,
rising with the songs of dead ancestors
with one hand stretched to the sky
and this, my footprint,
on a clay tablet.


This summer I can sing
the songs of the caged warrior,
singing to the rough anonymity of trees;
and here, on these branches,
I can leave the shell of my armour
like the shells of forgotten words,
recalling everything we once knew.

Time - what is it?
It is the symbol of a man
who loved cloud and mist;
distributing songs.

Time - what does it matter?
We made flowers and sunlight
and bracelets of rain;
distributing songs.

Now I can sing the bright, crackling words
in the memory of songs,
begging the forgiveness of butterflies,
and beauty that we destroyed
in our hunt for life.

This summer
Time - slanting across the land,
Time will tell what it means
loving from a distance.


They say a landscape drops from heaven
tangled with possibilities;
and a summer sun that directs the perfect balance
between the moment and the word
when everything falls into place.

Your laughter opens the world, creating space.
We could have diverted boats and nets
and claimed the words of the rose,
entering a house, shy as a dove;
exchanging words to help each other survive.

But words are like water, flowing away-
These floating lines
but the tender scars of witness on a page,
replacement words, shaped around a hope.

Right from the start we knew how it would be.
It was about truth, or the recognition of it,
but the journey of words proved nothing.
We neither gave up nor decided anything.

In another world someone holds my hand.
My life is changing every day.
Restless, becalmed, in open water
the plume of water rising to fly
is the surrender of letters into the great circle
beyond language and the desperation of words
where the world is scalloped like a shell,
and the waves are roaring
in no direction,
turning with the growth and bend of the sun.

(From 'Midsummer-survival lyrics')


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