ABECEDARIAN FOR MY FATHER’S CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

                                                                                                    The world is gone, I have to carry you.

                                                                                                    —Paul Celan, transl. by Pierre Jorris

ashes of paper flowers unfurling on the mud-flecked floor is a reminder.

brothers circled photograph of him pressing a Chinese gun to his scrawny

chest & a beedi between his red-ecru lips is glued to a bamboo panel in the

dining shed.                   in the sole memory I have of him, he is kicking a green

elephant-apple mother grabbed from a talukdars yard for the kuchia

fish curry we demanded                   his eyes jujube-red like a setting sun of fagun

graceless, a wild horse                         that summer we saw an endless pit of rotting

human bodies in the school patio                soggy fingers ringed by worms, brains

inching towards ashy gumminess,                tongues serving silence, also history—

jeeps & bleeding rills are all we sketched as kids           at midnight, from the stout

Krishnasuras we planted, we saw teachers & fathers hang like bats,          heard

lamentations of Deudinis ricochet till the land was glossed with tar         left

mothers as old as our burning wait for sovereignty to run into rivers       regretted

naming tribal lovers after sunbirds whose bodies came home dressed in flies &

old mats. but, nobody no longer wants to remember it as it was: fields burning in

puerile blood, roots with cracked spines clutching memories, machetes stirring

quickly through embers of soiled girls in grey lipstick, fusty tresses of Bhogdoi—

right about dawn, we often heard meaty footsteps on the sward, saw figures

swaying to cries of silty egrets like weirs in monsoon, groping gracefully

through lavender-hued blinds of June showers—                        they begged me to

undo their braids and knife them, they spoke of Jonkie-Panei before I killed them,

veiling his throbbing boil of grief spoke my brother.     and soon, he was gone.

winters mauve hours loosened its paling & he followed the rare cries of a baak.

xorais were offered for his return, so were rice beer & fresh pigs to unseen men

years later, nothing came but a photograph and a fisherman gesturing he is fine.

Ziro is where they last saw him, they say he pens a lot of sunbird songs to Dalimi.

Beedi: local cigarettes; Fagun: a month in the Hindu calendar; Krishnasura: Royal Poinciana; Deudini:performer who worships gods through her dances in Bodo religious festivals; Bhogdoi: a tributary of the Brahmaputra in India; Jonkie-Panei: (Mishing folklore) two lovers who were killed by an angry mob for eloping against Paneis fathers wishes; Baak: (Assamese folklore) a grotesque creature that inhabits ponds and rivers. After killing its prey, a Baak often takes the corpses appearance; Xorai: Bell-metal tray; Dalimi: close friend of Panei in the aforementioned folktale of Jonkie-Panei

                        

 

 

Abhijit Sarmah is a poet and researcher of global indigenous writing, with particular focus on Native American women writers and literatures from Northeast India. His work is published or forthcoming in Lunch Ticket, Chapter House Journal, The Albion Review, Glassworks Magazine, GASHER Journal, Rigorous Magazine, South 85 Journal, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, The Roadrunner Review and others. Follow him on Instagram: @abhijitsarmahwritespoetry

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