Friday, 2 January 2009

I Sing a Song of Goa

by Tanya Mendonsa, Moira village, Goa

I sing a song of Goa
Of the first liquid purl of birdsong that pulls up the kingfisher day
like a fishing line looping into water;
Of the fist of the sun at noon and the cracking of the parched earth;
Of the brawling of buffaloes, breasting the woodsmoke heading for home.

I sing of the creak of the windlass and the clean taste of water
in earthenware pitchers;
Of the desultory conversations on the
balcao's at dusk
- somebody's daughter; somebody's son -
As the crickets fiddle on hot stones and the sun dives,
dolphin-deep into the sea.
Of the anguished squeal of the Christmas pig
as flesh becomes sorpotel on the laden tables of festivity.

I sing of the riches of May, when the mango and the cashew apple
Grow so heavy with desire that scent weds heat;
Of the generous gulmohur, so reckless with its flowery coinage
that it paves the country roads with red gold;
Of the baptism of the first rains, when the round earth grows hair:
a tender fuzz of green on the skull, over the bones of the beloved soil.

I sing of the knotted rosaries of families that stretch to lands far away;
Of the crucifixion of weddings (nailed to the cross of respectability)
Of the benediction of funerals, and the village drunk
howling his loss to the young moon on her back . . .
Loss of love?
Of life?
Never mind: it is the deepest sound a human being can make.

But, too,
I sing of the lament of the rape of the hillsides
by bulldozers and moneymen;
I sing along the veins of the rivers whose blood
is being poisoned by the excreta of factories;
I sing a farewell to the sons and daughters who go abroad
to seek their fortunes, leaving the fields untilled.

This land is drenched in the voices of our ancesters.
They are stirring in their graves and questioning us
in their various voices:
Will the bread we eat today be baked tomorrow?
Will the fisherman's boat be capsied by the trawler?
Will the farmers sowing rice be stacking cans in supermarkets soon?

No one is safe, and every innocent must answer the charge.
The jury is out and the sentence hangs fire;
All we have to tender as bail is the earth beneath
and the sky above
Neither is acceptable as surety.

But I still sing of the blessing of each dawn.
When we wake with the wafer of hope on our tongues.
The church and the temple bells still ring
and the hoot of the breadman on his bicycle echoes the rooster.
Some wake
Some sleep
And some work to save this land
From the nightmares that gallop apace with our dreams.

If I sing a song of Goa,
Will Goa someday sing a song of me?
If it does, let it be from the throat of the wayside flower
that releases its sweetness as it falls and has a stain of vermillion at its heart
So that the foot that treads on it
Imprints its fragrance on the tender hollow of the instep
To perfume the road ahead
Until all the roads seem to be singing.

(Published in 'Herald Mirror' Herald newspaper, Panjim, Goa, 2 Nov 2008, page 18.)

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