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Mamang Dai

The Missing link

I will remember then
the great river that turned, turning
with the fire of the first sun,
away from the old land of red robed men
and poisonous ritual,
when the seven brothers fled south
disturbing the hornbills in their summer nests.

Remember the flying dust
and the wind like a long echo
snapping the flight of the river beetle,
venomous in the caves
where men and women dwelt facing the night
guarding the hooded poison.

There are no records.
The river was the green and white vein of our lives
linking new terrain,
in a lust for land brother and brother
claiming the sunrise and the sunset,
in a dispute settled by the rocks
engraved in a vanished land.

I will remember then the fading voices
of deaf women framing the root of light
in the first stories to the children of the tribe.
Remember the river's voice:
Where else could we be born
where else could we belong
if not of memory

divining life and form out of silence.
Water and mist,
the twin gods, water and mist,
and the cloud woman always calling
from the sanctuary of the gorge

Remember, because nothing is ended
but it is changed.
And memory is a changing shape
showing with these fading possessions
in lands beyond the great ocean
that all is changed but not ended.

And in the villages the silent hill men still await
the long promised letters, and the meaning of words.


Sometimes I bow my head
and weep.
Sometimes I hide my face
and weep.
Sometimes I smile
and even so
I weep,
but you do not know
this art.

Sky Song

The evening is
the greatest medicine maker
testing the symptoms
of breath and demise,
without appointment
writing prescriptions
In the changing script
of a cloud's wishbone rib,
in the expanding body of the sky.

We left the tall trees standing.
We left the children playing.
We left the women talking
and men were predicting
good harvests or bad,
that winged summer we left,
racing with the leopards of morning.

I do not know how we bore the years.
By ancient, arched gates
I thought I saw you waving,
in greeting or farewell, I could not tell;
when summer changed hands again
only the eastern sky remained;
One morning, flowering peonies
swelled my heart with regret.

Summer's bitter pill was a portion of sky
like a bird's wing, altering design.
A race of fireflies bargaining with the night.

Attachment is a gift of time, I know,
the evening's potion provides
heaven's alchemy in chromosomes of light,
lighting cloud fires
in thumbprints of the sky.


We are the children of the rain
Of the cloud woman,
Brother to the stone and bat
In our cradle of bamboo and vine
In our long houses we slept,
And when morning came
We were refreshed.

There were no strangers
in our valley.
Recognition was instant
as clan by clan we grew,
and destiny was simple
like a green shoot
following direction
like the sun and moon.

The first drop of water
gave birth to man.
From red sheath
to green stem
and the spreading wind:

We descend
from solitude and miracles.

No Dreams

The days are nothing
Plant and foliage grow silently
at night a star falls down
a leopard leaves its footprint
But I have no dreams.

The wind blows into my eyes
sometimes , it stirs my heart
to see the land so plain and beautiful
But I have no dreams

If I sit very still
I think I can join the big mountains
In their speechless ardour

Where no sun is visible
the hills are washed with light
The river sings
Love floats!
Love floats!
But I have no dream.

A Stone Breaks the sleeping water

I wish I had inherited fruit trees.
Tall, full grown trees
with flowering branches and ancient roots
nothing vanishes so surely as childhood
the life of clay, the chemistry of colour
this I realize in the season of dying
in the month of the red lotus
when a stone breaks the sleeping water

Where eyes meet the dawn
claiming the course of a river, a stream
I wish I could fulfill impersonation of a life
and inherit each simple hour
protected by innocence.

Now when it rains
I equate the white magnolia with perfect joy
Spring clouds, stroke of sunlight
The brushstrokes of my transformed heart.

Bring to Me

Bring to me
The colours of the morning
Give to me
the afternoon’s golden chain
Bring to me the silver anklets
of the moon, my love
and I will dance
for you again.

Tell me the secrets
of your heart.
Give to me your breath
Again, when the world sleeps
tell me the stories
of human error
and why the image
does not change.


In the sound of the rain
is contained
all the spirit of the jungle
Living , breathing
crushed, regenerative
always watchful.

The burden of memory
the force of life
the cruelty of strength
passionate embrace
of darkness and light

In the rain the camellias bloom
The incense of pine
fills the senses again
Again, the scales are balanced
between joy and pain.

Rain 2

The rain has its own method
When the day is blank
A storm of remembrance rises
Over the brow of the hill

The green tree grows taller.

Spirit Sun

In my mind
I turn you into the land
the shoulder of the hill
the night wind
People say I am foolish.
Live here
be happy , they tell me,
and I link you
with all the seasons,
drop by drop,
the sunlight and the rain
and there are no strangers
and no more friends,
and every night
I hear the wind
moving towards the dawn
carrying the moon.

The Pale Road

Every step of the road
is marked with signs
I see the river again,
The wind strains
every branch and tee
and so many thoughts
cross my mind,
but most of all
it is the one about live,
the original obsession
that was a dream
of unlocking the dark gate
with my heart.

Yes , we loved the beautiful dau
The quietness of homes
and the streets
shining with rain
in the headlights of a car,
in the outskirts of the town
where we once tried to talk
when it rained forever.

How long we watched that road !
and how the years have gone
just looking at the road.

Prayer Flags

Like delicate tracery
you mapped
the delusions of my heart,
planning the evening
and the rain,
it was revenge
and I did not know
not recognizing your art

We speak of rebirth
the cycle of life and death
But words are faithless
I ask you again
Who prays to the wild wind,
in the chill dawn
who cries to the first sky,
you bring me pain
Oh! You bring me pain !

We should have known
life’s little madness
would find us again.
Keeper of the holy mountain
facing the four heavens
the art of healing
is slow without doubt,
but all life is turning
in shadow image
now my cup is empty
I only know
the sun and moon crown
the heart of the blade.

Broken Verse

What happens
when life loses its luster
when passion ails
and we circle the night
what happens now
my wild, wonderful lover?

Once so precious
your embrace
like faith and laughter,
now wraps itself
around a question mark.

Through so many corridors
and locked doors
we pursued the matter,
and in the end
it is all turned to water
under the bridge.

No more words !
no more stolen speech
from the sun
What was begin
fell, in broken verse
the telling is failed.

My Love

Forgive me my love,
if your searching mouth
draws no fire
from sleeping limbs

I used to watch
for the tender hand
on this naked arch
this radiant hair
No more, my love,
let these voices stay
in the soft shell of night
where summer’s abundance
screens our separate lives.

The lessons of the moon
never taught us risk of pain
Intense tenderness
has a way of breaking
lips and eyes, my love
let this frailty stay
where the wind moves
the shining mountain
dressing the wounds of night

The gladness of my love
will be daily wage enough
behind closed lids
scattering endless days
in the sunlight that splinters
fragrant, as flowers do
we’ll call our names
again my love,
where the jungle blooms
with no promises.


Sometimes I bow my head
and weep
Sometimes I hide my face
and weep
Sometimes I smile
and even so
I weep
but you do not know
this art.

After Dark

the cradling dark
secret whispering
in the garden
under the trees
the intoxicating dark
the sleeping birds
do not know
this new fluttering shape.

Wild Birds

I thought you loved me
how sad it is
this spring sky
the caress of
mist and vapour
why do wild birds cry?

The Flowers that Fell in the Night

The flowers that fell in the night
stay on the ground
Yesterday and today part hands forever
Now any direction is possible
“How shall we meet again”, you say,
In the tender oblivion of fruit trees
holding the scent of white flowers.


Sparkling clear cold
Laughter among the trees
In the snow frozen villages
there were those days.

Petrified at nightfall.
Ash cold dawn
bitter with the shock of parting
There were those days.

And now
the smiles of old women
tell me
in these pagan hills
full of gods
living rock
and the eternal river
that I have changed.

I Dreamt You Spoke to me Last Night

I dreamt you spoke to me last night
your voice was friendly
your eyes warm
and your face was very close
we were falling in love again

Your long absence has changed nothing
I kiss your face
happy to be back in the small town
where we walked long
and drank tea in small shops
hands join again
on that road to the river,
that dark river
dark huts, dark you,
and dark women
sipping the night’s sweetness

Those March days were hot
Who stole the dark swirl
and the red lips?

Your face bears no marks
nor mine
though I have learnt so late
when life playas the snatching game
I am fascinated by memory’s sting
I dreamt you spoke to me last night
Your voice was friendly
your eyes warm
and your face was very close
we were falling in love again.


The four pointed leaves
are printed on the sky
strong sun, red flamed,
blurred faces
through this dark smudge
come and go
come and go
How can I unknow things.

Stone Lions

Soft snow faces glisten
on the lion’s back
After the turning of the wheel
the stillness of the form
and I thought
I would never be afraid again.

I will never forget

I will never forget
that morning
and the road that led us
to the end
where we stood, bewildered
in a strange place
face to face

The street were shining
my love, it was summer
and there was rain
and my heart prayed
the grey season
was but a season
and season’s change

How long it has taken
to alter thought !
To feel safe again.
My words craft
a way to explain
parables of destiny
Rain.River. Oh ! mountain road
where have you led us this time?

I will never forget
that morning,
like a broken window
facing the bright day


The river of dreams
penance and pilgrimage
linking life’s designs
in truth and legend
like the moon
as the sun
when will you bring me
my seasons of birth
and spring?

Once you sprang clean
washing boulders,
clearing streams.
A quiver of arrows
braced your motion
now the light changes
in new terrain
will you remember
the golden chain
that linked us
in a dream?

Small Towns and the River

Small towns always remind me of death
My hometown lies calmly amidst the trees,
It is always the same, in the summer of winter
with the dust flying
or the wind howling down the gorge

Just the other day someone dies
In the dreadful silence we wept
looking at the sad wreath of tuber roses.
Life and death, life and death,
Only the rituals are permanent.

The river has a soul.
In the summer it cuts through the land
like a torrent of grief. Sometimes.
sometimes, I think it holds its breath
seeking the land of fish and stars

The river has a soul
It knows, stretching past the town
forms the first drop of rain to dry earth
and mist on the mountaintops
The river knows the immortality of water.
A shrine of happy pictures
marks the days of childhood.
Small towns grow with anxiety
for future generations.
The dead are placed pointing west
When the soul rises
It will walk into the golden east
into the house of the sun.
In the cool bamboo,
restored in the sunlight
life matters, like this.
In small towns by the river
we all want to walk with the gods.

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