Being

Along the alley wall sat a shrine to forgotten gods,
echoing a Wayang singer's cry
what stories were they telling
who were they addressing
Singing songs no one understands
I stood wanting to but failing
my sophistication cruel, my thoughts banal
Should we succumb to idle romanticism or nostalgia
tracing our lineage to ancient warlords
Should we move on
must we discard
to grasp and celebrate a heritage
made by bureaucrats out of paper mache
I listened to the ostinato of cars and buses
feeling hideous and obsolete in every way
a displaced mangrove in a concrete canal
I think a banyan used to be here
who sheltered children and chickens in its shade
I forget more and more as time passes
They say it's progress, join the marchers!

Perhaps its a conceit to comprehend the songs I wished I'd sung
I now write the vernacular in a foreign tongue

They took away our history
We are just a people with a past.

 


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