Echoes of a Thousand Tongues

Costumes & Stories (Desh Deepak, 1970)

If, one day
I come to your land
And lean at your fence
And call out to you to 
Come, tell me your story –
Will you?
Will you leave everything
And drop down on the grass and
Tell me slowly, in waves
Of your people
Their forests
Their gods
Their names for wind, water and sun
And all that of which there is left
Only a redacted memory and
A tug at your heart –
Will you begin with that first?

Will you trace a line in the air 
Of the river
By which your elders prayed 
And nudged your grandfather 
To fold his hands too?
You haven’t seen her
“And yet you are the river and the river is you…”
So your father said one day
Falling into a memory so old
It seemed a myth
But it lives in your heart 
As if it were an address
You must go looking for
Following the road of your longing
For that river.

Tell me again
The oldest story you remember
Of the oldest woman, silver-haired 
Who became a star in the sky
Above your mountain
Who protects your souls
Even this night
Since a million nights.
And tell me how you don’t –
And yet you do –
Know that these stories are true…
That though you feel lost
On a highway in your car
You still tell your daughter 
That the land knows you
Even when you’re lost
And that means inner land too…? 

When you bring me a glass of water
I shall ask you  
With my own story as my face
About the blood that was drawn
Out of the well of your lives
For the valley that was home 
And about how you hid and waited 
And stayed and fought
Or were hounded
And disciplined
And killed –
But remembered and stored
And locked in your heart
Every piece of knowing
That could create someday
A new Earth from ancient words
That are beyond colonisation. 

For days and nights
Through spring and snow
I shall listen to you 
And then with the might
Of a thousand tongues
I have heard and become 
I shall speak the stories into the ground –
From whence springs every single blade –
And speak and sow and speak and sow
And will and wait…
Till one day they return –
The people of trees
The swinging fields
The Soul of the river
The songs on the breeze
Once again we shall dance
Around that ritual fire
Humming loud and free
Deep into the void
What the heart has always known – 
The chants of an unbreakable connection.

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