The Young Martyr

(This is an old work,revised and edited)

He lay there in a pool of blood, his head hollow.As if the insides had been scooped out with a spoon. A salty taste permeated his mouth, choking him. All he could hear was the slow beating of his own heart reverberating inside his head and some faraway voices.
Then there was nothing.

He had felt no pain, just the slight unexpected surprise.When he had been hit with the fatal bullet on his forehead, his face held the kind of expression people make if tapped on the back unexpectedly. Nothing monstrous or horrifying. The expression remained as time stopped dead on its tracks for him.

He lay there in a pool of his own blood, losing the fight and the cause he had embraced with so much passion, like a new lover. Now the cause lay flowing from his being; escaping all over the asphalt like a cat let out of the bag.

To the lifeless body with the surprised expression you wanted to say ,’What did you expect from fighting a lost cause?’

So much not lived, so much not seen, so ,so young.

His mother had been feeding the chickens when the people bearing the terrible news came. She had been counting the chickens in her head and checking for eggs in the coop.

When the men told of their terrible news, first the bowl with the chicken feed fell from the mothers hands scattering the timid chickens all over the courtyard.  As the chaos died down, silence overwrote the scene. Her reaction was not immediate, her tears would not come. On her lips a half smile still remained from greeting the news bearers. The expression of surprise in her eyes would have matched the expression on her dead sons’ face, had she seen it.Her mind would not register what she had just heard so her eyes followed the path of the scattered chickens.She wondered if they had gone into the new flower beds.

Her unsuspecting husband was still tending the marigolds as two of the four men with the unfortunate news walked towards him. She saw her husband crumpling  up in a heap upon the flowers.The morning smelled of marigolds.

Seeing her husband collapse, she snapped out from her stupor and ran indoors.The men ran after her, concerned. She ran towards the corner where the three ancestral stones were laid for worship day in and day out. The ancestral stones had drunk enough chicken blood and rice beer year after year after year. Her ancestors had not protected her family from evil and misfortune, they had not done their part!

She screamed and kicked and upturned the stones with blind rage and threw them one after another out into the courtyard. By now the neighbors had started collecting around the house and gasped in terror as she did the unthinkable of desecrating the ancestral stones, spitting and cursing at them.

A  rooster crowed in the hot mid- morning.Through all the rage inside her, all she could see was a blur and all she could feel was a pair of hands holding her down gently.Tired now, she raggedly breathed in short haggard breaths as her legs gave way and she shook violently with the pain of loss to death. It broke her heart,it broke her soul,it broke everything sane inside her mind.Her body gave in to those hands that held her,they sat her down on the mud-floor ,legs sprawled rocking to and fro,slippers missing from her feet, as she felt Hell for the very first time.

The death of a family is painful but the loss of one’s own child is a curse that can never be undone,the pain once felt never to be forgotten.Her silent tears made rivulets on her weathered face,dusty from the ash of the ancestral stones and dripped down the front of her velvet maroon blouse.
They told her then that they were bringing ‘the body’ in.
‘As if he had no name.’she thought, ‘no identity, as if he never was.’ ‘As if he never warmed my lap as a child. As if he never brought the firewood home and lit the stove in the mornings,so that I could rest.He was such a good child,’ she cried silently. ‘My very best…and now a body.’ She panicked with the thought that she would never see him again,no matter how hard she tried,no matter how much she wished. Her son was gone  to a place from where he would never come back;it filled her with dread and desolation.
They finally brought his body, and people gathered outside in a crowd. Everyone looked sad but it was not their son that had died. Though genuinely mourning the death of the young man who had grown up before their eyes,they were relieved it hadn’t happened to them,that they were not the ones who had to bury a young son.
Carried by his rebel comrades,among the mourning crowd inside the house,the body was laid. The mother got up from her previous numb silence and her cries of unimaginable loss pierced the atmosphere  as she embraced her dead child. The chicken still clucked in the courtyard. Time still moved from morning to early afternoon and the sun still scattered the scent of the young Marigolds.The women  of the village had gathered all around the mother now and trying to comfort her. When they laid his body down; his nineteen year old face with the shadow of a beard had gone yellow due to loss of blood and looked like wax.The blood that he had sacrificed for the people and the cause  had made patterns upon his face caked in a standstill like a rebel soldier standing guard. His head was held together with a black handkerchief to hold his fragmented skull together along with its contents; pieces of brain matter that no longer functioned, thought or felt emotions nor believed in ideals. The bullet mark on his forehead was hidden under a coin.
The witch doctors came with their drums in the hot afternoon. They beat the drums to prayer and songs,trying to get in touch with the spirit of the young man. Other family members prepared for the  body for the burial,bathing and wrapping it in white linen. People came in to pay their respects and covered his torso with satin scarves.The smoke from the stick incense was sweetly thick and gagging,they smelled of death.Some people took over the kitchen to prepare tea and meals for the people who would stay for the wake. Some went to the bamboo groove to cut fresh bamboo for the prayer ceremony.

That night they would call out to the spirit of the young man who had been forced to leave this world for the next so abruptly. They would talk to him through the witch doctors,ask him if he was ok,if he had any wishes,if there was anything that they could do to ease his passage into the next life. The witch doctors kept playing  their drums in haunting beats and chanted prayers for the young dead boy.They called out to him to come and talk to them to tell of his suffering. They sang songs to comfort his soul which might be scared,lost or angry.They told him not to fear,that they would lead him,they would teach him how to carry on after death.

As the heated afternoon faded into the night,the mother could have sworn that she saw him from the window, standing beside the old plum tree, looking so forlorn.

 

Secrets

I want to tell you little secrets,
of the mossy lane I walked bare-feet.
Scented with the fresh earth and last nights rain,
slightly wet but ever so sweet.
 
Of the spring sunshine that floods the sky,
in strings of tender gold.
They touch vagrant pink roses on the roof,
that never listen to what they’re told.
Of the days on a chilly winter’s morn ,
in my far away mountain home.
How we lit a roaring fire together,
and never felt alone.
 
And the story of the snowy mountains,
I miss seeing so much.
Is in the scent of days gone past,
and things yet to come,
a memory,
a  butterfly’s touch.

Sun Tea

The morning sun

is always tender

its makes my potted fern

golden green

The cares of yesterday

melt in the momentous bliss

as the golden threads

play on my finger tips

The inviting sight,

its charming  light

seems like a beautiful reverie,

The concrete walls

surrounding me,

loses some of its  atrocity.

An empty jar

in a forgotten corner

stands in my kitchen space

Now I long for a little bit

of that sunshine taste.

the tap fills up the waiting jar

the sun falls on my knee

the tea tin waits

with the leaves within

to brew me some Sun tea

I know it will taste

of summers to come

dragonflies , ants

and wafting memories

there will be a note

of times gone by

in my jar of  sun tea…

The Morning

I imagined that beyond the buildings in colored concrete which surrounded my whole existence; 
there was a beach where the sun shone in the early morning light and a crisp February breeze prevented it from getting too hot

I could taste the sea…

Home

 

Today I am alone… 

contemplating misty mountain trails 
on a foggy day 
hot tea and conversations 
laughter with friends 
warm boots I could run in 
completely free 
the smell of pine needles 
the slip of the sleet 
the freeze of the water 
in the drums that stood still 
the tenderest sunshine 
from the birch trees so bare 
the falling of last leaves 
and the girl who stood there

Beautiful Death

Today

You breathed your last of the cold winter air,

the mountains,the pines,the sadness of being alone.

I was just a stranger you didn’t even know,

but I did understand,I empathized,I felt your soul.

Today you breathed your last,of the putrid atmosphere,

of being unwanted in the world,just too old.

You breathed your last of the sorrows,

the loss,the pain, the being alone.

Today you breathed your last,

and though I didn’t even know you that well,

I felt you breathe your first of freedom,

in a very long time.

I know you flew free,young again,strong again,

running across green meadows,

into the arms of your the one who left you behind.

I would like to think there is another world after death,

and there together,hand in hand,

you crossed the stream to the other better side.

Know this that I will always picture you,

as the young girl in love you must’ve been,

happy once again and forever so you will always remain,

beautiful in death…

Sasha and the Red Rooster

 

Once upon a time there was a kingdom where the sun had forgotten to shine for a while. It was cold and dark there and snowed almost all the time. As the sun would not shine, no flowers grew there and the trees were bare. Even the birds had left for warmer places having no songs to sing.

In the middle of a forest away from the village lived a girl who was sad and alone. Her name was Sasha. Sasha missed the days when the sun kissed the mornings and caressed the evenings with warm hands leaving the world in rosy glow.The memories of the flowers and the sunlight made Sasha sad and she cried herself to sleep some nights.

The people of the village went to church and prayed that the sun would remember them soon and so did Sasha. She spent her days gathering firewood from the forest so that at nights she could keep warm. She ate whatever she could gather, or accepted whatever some kindly soul from the village offered her. At night she lit a small fire and fell into a fitful sleep, watching the flames dancing in front of her eyes.

‘Maybe tomorrow the sun will be out,’ she thought hopefully.

In her dreams one such night, she saw that the sun was out and children were playing in the meadows. The trees were laden with fruit, heavy with juice and birds sang their songs. Nearby, the brook gurgled and fishes played happily as the sun touched the water making it sparkle like a million diamonds.

The dream was so beautiful that a tear of joy rolled down her cheeks. As the teardrop rolled down, down, down, it caught the gleam of the flames and shone like a gem. There was something magical about the dream and the hour which turned the teardrop, into a wish.

In her dream she mumbled, ‘Oh I wish I didn’t have to be alone.’

The next morning, Sasha woke up to see a ‘RED’ rooster strutting about at the foot of her bed. At first she couldn’t believe her eyes and rubbed them again!

No, the red rooster was still there. A little startled by this strange event, Sasha pulled her bedcovers closer and demanded,

’ Who are you?’

A little baffled at the stupidity of the girl, the red rooster said,’ can’t you see I’m a rooster?’ and strutted further arrogantly.

Oh a talking rooster! Thought Sasha, but still not willing to appear surprised, she retorted,

‘I can see that very well but what are you doing at the foot of my bed?’

‘Well,’ said the red rooster,’ I’m just as surprised as you are girl,’ shouted the rooster huffily.

‘My, my, ‘said Sasha, ‘someone DOES have a temper!!

‘I’m sorry,’ said the red rooster,’ I’m like that sometimes, I’m overwhelmed at finding myself here you see!’

‘That’s quite alright,’ said Sasha quietly,’ So am I.’

My name is Peter,’ announced the red rooster out of the blue.

‘Oh how lovely, like in Peter Pan?’ said Sasha happily.

‘Yes, and if you are willing I might teach to fly,’ chuckled the red rooster,’ after I learn to fly myself,’ he added as an afterthought.

‘But I’m sure you will someday, after all you have wings,’ said Sasha wide eyed in wonder.She had never met anyone like him.

‘What’s your name?’ asked the red rooster.

‘Sasha,’ she replied.

‘Where on earth did you pick up such a name?’ teased the red rooster hiding a smile.

‘I have a good mind to put you in the pot mister if you don’t behave,’ retorted Sasha.

‘Sorry,’ said the red rooster again,’ I’m like this sometimes.

Then they both burst out laughing till tears rolled down their faces for no reason at all.

‘It feels nice to have someone to talk to!’ thought Sasha looking at the red rooster fondly.

The red rooster blinked under her gaze feeling a little uncomfortable hummed and hawed and announced,’ I’m hungry!’ lest he showed how much he liked the girl.

They became fast friends from then on after.

The red rooster might have come across as a bit pompous but that was until he was comfortable with somebody to show his much kinder and gentler side. He looked at Sasha crouched underneath the bedcovers and thought with his kind heart why the girl looked so sad.

‘Hey, doesn’t it ever get bright around here?’ he inquired.

‘The sun forgets to shine here Peter,’ said Sasha in a whisper.’ It’s been almost a year now. Look out the window what do you see? Everything is dead and gone without the sun, the flowers, the trees, the crops, the fruits. We will be going hungry in no time at all.’

‘You mean to say no one ever talks to him?’ asked the red rooster.

‘Oh but that’s impossible,’ said Sasha

‘Why I could do that for you!’ said the red rooster.

Sasha couldn’t believe what she had just heard and jumped out of the bed in her faded old nightgown.

‘Can you do that?’ she shouted excitedly,’ can you remind the sun to shine here?’

‘Well, that’s what I do best!’ said the red rooster, I give him a call every morning for just that in my village, even if I don’t know where I am at this moment!, he muttered under his breath.

Yes, my friend I can certainly do that for you.’

With his last words still ringing about in the room, the red rooster flew up the roof with a scramble and looking towards the west crowed for the first time in the village, loud and clear.

The sun heard this sound in his bed and was startled. He looked down and suddenly remembered that he had not shone on this part of the world for sometime now.

He rose from his golden bed and now for the first time looked down at the dark little kingdom.

‘How could i have been so absentminded,’ he said.

‘I think I will have to do something about this place, it really looks dark and dead!’ he worried.

That day the sun rose in all his glory on the dark kingdom, spreading his golden arms and touching everything and bringing it back to life. The church bell began to ring in rejoice of this wondrous day.

‘The sun has come back,’ sang the bells echoing from hill to dale, valleys and plains.

The snow melted away and the grass began to grow, green and succulent. The laughter of children and life going about started to fill the streets.

People started spring cleaning and Sasha even took out her old blue dress and wore it in celebration of the new sunny day.

‘You look nice,’ said the red rooster

‘Well you are very kind,’ said Sasha smiling at him. The Red rooster turned redder and his heart glowed with a feeling he didn’t recognize. So he strutted off again flew up the roof and said, ‘The view is great from up here!’