Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rez - Mona Zote


A boy & his gun : that’s an image will do

to sum up our times

to define the red lakes

and razor blade hills of our mind. Out here this place never changes, never will

we will keep choosing grey salt, bad roads,

some thin yellow flowers to grieve, alcohol over friendship

cash for peace, God’s grin of despair. If you think I’m starting to regret

sticking around and kicking at the tombstones

(if not pulling out the ak-47)

remember the water lilies will bind you back.

Trenchcoat todesengel bringing meaning to life thru death, thru

an intimate if facile study of pain

and those other mental stuff like drawing

pictures of war

people getting shot

houses pulled down

heads shorn

traditional law custom kultur

junkies runners bootleggers scum scum scum

We too have spent our brutal spring exacerbated

by a long tradition of self-enforced isolation,

continued into a cold-blooded summer (I feel


I fear


we said it wasn’t intentional

and the grasshopper susurrus of our blood tells us


you feel almost an ability to be worse than what you are

(Perhaps this explains why today in the middle of my room

a black hole soundlessly spins).

Look, kid, thank you for the demonstration

& don’t forget to take your angel home

even if you don’t feel like going back to school

& if they ask you about life on the reservation

if they say they want to hear about stilt houses

and the dry clack of rain on bamboo

and the preservation of tribal ways

give them a slaughter.


Let’s hear from you, Angel. Incredibly,

He spake: “Four a.m. I rose from

the silicon box, wings quivering triumphant

if bleary-eyed, knuckles cramped,

having gunned down Virtual Viktor the smiling Rooskie, my erstwhile

friend, piss-full of vodka as he went – like the young in one another’s arms

drowning among the waves. You remember

Star Trek via Doordarshan?

Do you remember? – Those Sunday ceremonies of mantraps

and armageddon now!, logic and adventure,

new worlds braver than the last, those tinpan ships from an

interstellar Nineveh: amok times, yes. Also aboriginal.

My shoes are Japanese

Christ, I can’t forget Yaqob, surefire bet in the pro wrestling ring –

man’s champ or scapegoat, who can tell? He got the better

of me in the end but I…

I nailed his dreams to the cold ground.

In the distance, the guitars of Byzantium wept.

No, don’t go there!

There be whales, cap’n, and pearls and eyes.

Thus let us venture to the noodle bar –”

The immortal game

“– Mister Nighttime, what say? Admit modernity in, sepia anime! Who

mourns for Adonis or Umrao Jaan? D’you remember what the children sang –

Your warriors are gone with Billy Bowlegs

and Billy Budd swings from the mast

O moments that have passed like tears in rain

Toke this: things have to be the way they are

because gods can’t remember, we angels do. In this

we are as mortal as you

though fiery we fell.

Swaraj: acid anthem in our veins.

But heart is truly Hindoostani

So many have fallen…these cinnamon groves. I swear…

I swear by the Wumpus, by Alphaman,

– the world’s become

one big reservation. I should know,

I’m the Angel. I’m

in charge. You feel

that tightening of the temples as at some

momentous corner-turn of history? This tale, I fear, has just

begun to unfurl. Don’t be afraid. Have a tsing pao – else, coffee?

Stay with me, boss. Stay.”

Screw it, let’s dance!

or do origami.


A mindless year of mindless action.

If the moon looks grey tonight, if you think she weeps,

it is because

you live on a reservation

If as you walked the houses rose on all sides threatening,

it is because

you live on a reservation

If the wind brings no news of love, if the villas are silent

and empty, it is because

you live on a reservation

The things you have to say, no one can say them for you

The places you have to go, no one can go there for you

The hills you have to burn, no one can burn them for you.


Another gem from my favourite Mizo writer in English, Mona Zote. She tells me that while she doesn't enjoy explaining her own writings (it would put the critics out of business being one reason she cites :P) she'd like it to be known that -

"'Rez' is short for 'reservation' as in those native American reservations you find in the US. It's how the Indians refer to these lands. There was a school shooting on one of them which never quite made the kind of international headlines that similar incidents at WASP-ish schools do."

Well, that's Mona for you, widely-read and well-informed, and there's something in the way she writes that makes you feel like she just pulls all her eclectic readings together and effortlessly whips up a poetic gem that's just astounding in its density of literary allusions very much in the same way that magicians just pluck things out of empty air or world-class chefs effortlessly whip up a breathtakingly fabulous meal. To an achievement like that, all that us ordinary mortals can say is Wow!