Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Identity and other poems - Malsawmi Jacob



Identity

My voice may sound a bit strange
seem to be singing off-key
as I go for minor modes,
not being majoritarian

My tribe you dub “subaltern” –
we call ourselves highlanders –
live on sharp rugged hills
Our voice buried many years
is now beginning to rise

We’re rich in tales and legends
stored in our collective-conscious
but have little written history
since the only manuscript we had
on leather scroll, was kept unguarded
and stolen away.

Nevertheless, we are part of
universal brotherhood;
the sky and earth are ours
as well as yours. 

                       ~~~~

Pi Hmuaki*

They couldn’t stand your prophetic voice
that spoke against their misdeeds
as night after night you sang your songs
in your lonely hut
Your gong music enchanted them
melody drove them wild
but the lyrics did the mischief –
the lyrics pierced their hearts.

The heroes loved their exploits
heads and loots won in raids
killing was the way to live
to attain the honoured place in pialral [1]

You derided their philosophy
wouldn’t sing their eulogy
after a successful raid,
tried to stop them dating lasi [2]
told them to choose tlangsam [3] over kangthai [4]

Their annoyance grew day by day,
decided to silence you altogether
Shut you out from golden sunlight
wind and call of chuk-chu-ri-kur [5].

Your gong still rings under the earth
Bong! Bong!
A disturbance in tyrants’ ears.


* The first known Mizo poet. She was buried alive supposedly for going on composing songs.
[1] The place where the spirits of dead people were believed to go. ‘Heroes’ who had slain many enemies and animals were supposed to receive a special treatment there.
[2] Wood nymphs who helped men they fell in love with to shoot many animals.
[3] A plant used for healing wounds.
[4] Nettle
[5] Spotted dove

                        ~~~


The Songster’s Lament

On blue mountain the songster sits
guitar strings all broken
the song becomes a tuneless chant:

“When guns sounded in our land
bombs shouted
fire screamed
cicadas stopped singing

homes went up in flame
hearths were razed
the sacred profaned
music fell silent

laughter turned to shrieks
dreams to nightmare
wild wolves prowled 
fear stalked every street
songs curdled
frozen by night.

I’m waiting, waiting.

Will the great bear turn around*
over our bamboo hills?"

* signifies the coming of dawn

                                ~~~


Malsawmi Jacob
is among our foremost Mizo writers in English and her work has been featured on the blog a number of times over the years.  These poems are from her recently published book of poetry titled Four Gardens and Other Poems available on amazon.com. The collection is divided into seven thematic sections and the three pieces selected here are from the section entitled Roots, dealing with her ethnic identity and cultural origins.


2 comments:

Malsawmi Jacob said...

Thanks for featuring my poems.

Zualteii Poonte said...

Thank you for allowing me to :)