Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poems might well be the gliding end to this bouquet of with poems like Dystopian and Temple, where he takes you to a philosophical quest and leaves you there – right at the cliff.
Deep inside a pine forest,
we sought the mountain.
Between Sohpet Bneng, our holy mountain,
the afternoon rays filtering through the trees,
and the rufescent pine floor,
we had our temple.
I worshipped you again and again.
I made myself humble before you again and again.
I surprised you again and again.
Birds called from everywhere.
Their variety astonished me;
their calls filled me with sadness.
Trees were laid low everywhere.
How long have they got before they go?
And how long have we got, Nameri?
people like us,
always live on borrowed time.
Everything else was silent.
We spoke in hushed tones.
You inspired me into a range of emotions.
When I bowed down before you—veneration.
When I cleaned your feet—fulfillment.
When I held you in my arms—enchantment.
When our bodies touched,
I expected the tremors of the flesh.
How would I know you would fill me with stillness?
Happiness stunned me.
I felt drugged and drowsy.
I closed my eyes, and I saw
all were dreams; all were visions.
Not once did I tremble with desires.
Such a one as you, I have never come across.
We spoke of the dangers facing us,
our bleak and hopeless world.
I thought of Trump and Bolsonaro
and all the enemies of the earth.
We spoke of Corona and your leaving.
And you wondered why I bent my head
and would not show you my eyes.
All through the evening,
only the noodles you cooked for me;
only the hand that reached for mine;
only the fear you were losing
and the love igniting in your eyes;
bolstered my confidence,
as I faced the world,
We groan under the weight of Corona
the disruptions it has brought
the fear it has instilled in every heart
the cruelties surging from that fear:
villages driving people coming home
into the jungles
cities forbidding people to leave
people with no place to stay
with no money and no food
people walking for hundreds of desperate miles
people driven to suicide.
The selfishness and the greed
lurk in every shop
in every street.
The lockdown is a cure worse than the sickness.
The fear is worse than the plague.
We may all be free from Corona’s fatal touch
for 41 days
but how will those without the means
be free from hunger, disease, starvation
for 41 days?
The fear of getting sick is making people die.
Thieves and murderers will stalk the nights.
The cure is worse than the sickness.
Oh, I hate it, that is true, Nameri
and the worst thing it has done to me
is to take you away from me.
And I don’t even know
when you will return
or in what frame of mind.
The nights are pitiless
they stare at me
I stare at them
and neither of us will ever know relief
until you set us free again.
The silence it has brought
into the streets
the silence it has brought
into the engines of commerce:
I love the clear skies I can now see
even in the dirtiest of cities.
Change is possible
we may yet save the earth
Corona has shown us that.
And it’s not even as monstrous
as some things I have known.
If you are a poet in love with easeful death
you would also embrace it if it comes.
Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih (Meghalaya, India) writes poems, drama and fiction in Khasi and English. His latest works include The Yearning of Seeds (HarperCollins), Time’s Barter: Haiku and Senryu (HarperCollins) and Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends (Penguin).