It is calm, the sand
A creamy caressing
My regular progressing, breathing
Like quiet sleep at night.
Peace is like that hand
That cool palm upon my racing heart
Cooling cooling me down, cooling
A very quiet moment
Sometimes I understand
The tracks that tears once marked down
The shifting desert sands – the sands
Shift and shift, but the tracks remain
Visible from my aeroplane
Pain and more pain over and over again
Makes you quieter, richer in the end.
It’s only peace that lasts that long –
– AKA TERAKA.
Is that sea or sand
Out of which the jagged
Jaggered, the daggered mountains
A sea of sand
A limitless band beneath my eyes
A voiceless voiceless sea of cries
The mountains and the desert.
I fly away, I don’t return
A heart, I beat, within a metalbird
I sit and stare
At the weight of all the thoughts that I bear
World without end.
– AKA TERAKA.
With every flight my thoughts take
In the sight of my heart
You become to me ever more natural…
A natural extension
I met you in your every age
At every which one of your many life-stages
I know your low, your high
Your I, for I have looked you in the Eye.
We shall grow. This is not the end
A new task. Opened, a new flask
Undone. Another mask, unmasked.
Another you. Another me.
– AKA TERAKA.
A smile is a gift-wrapped heart
A heart is an unspoken smile
You grow on me
Windows open up too
A transparent pane of glass
I see you through
Houses head upward
But we speak one tongue
This time. We change hearts
Like we change lanes –
We grow on us.
– AKA TERAKA.
Women are so serious, you know
There’s a way she looks at you sometimes
From beneath her eyelids
And you know
She’s taking a second look
Because you passed the first test
Then even your heart skips a beat
You don’t want to fail the test
But you don’t want to pass it either
Oh how you want to pass it! Oh no
Oh yes – oh, shut up! Men are pigs.
Just be grateful for whatever she gives you
And try not to mess it up too much
You don’t deserve it anyway.
– AKA TERAKA.
“He said one word: ‘Traitor’. And he pointed at me.”
King Siama breathed slowly, in and out, and waited for his father to continue. When after a while it seemed that nothing more was forthcoming, he asked tersely:
“Is that all?”
Suddenly a tear flowed down the withered cheek of the thin old man lying on the bed. He shook his head slowly and his voice turned bitter:
“To you it may sound like nothing. But to me it meant, and means, everything.”
During the length of the entire conversation, King Siama had been standing by his father’s bedside. Now he sat down on the side of the soft bed and took his father’s limp bony hand in his hand. And waited.
The old, dying, former king spoke on:
“It started when I was young. Myself, Lamba and Kwunto.”
“The distinguished Senators Lamba and Kwunto?”, asked King Siama, startled.
“Yes, they,” replied his father. “You would not know it now, but we were the best of friends when we were growing up. What I am going to tell you next will surpass the borders of your understanding… but it is true. One day, we saw… a spirit.”
Again everything that was superstitious and spiritual in Siama opened up to his father.
“We were walking on the hills when this man approached us. He gave us a stone, and said – ‘do not betray your people’ – and then he vanished.”
“Yes. We looked up and suddenly he was not there anymore. But from that day, something strange began to happen to us. New thoughts began to occur to us. We sat together often, no longer to play, but to share our thoughts and to write down our ideas about how we felt this Land should be governed. It became clear to us that Disunity was the primary obstacle to our nation’s ascent. Disunity and disharmony. It was resolved that when I eventually became king, I must work hard to restore the nation to the roots of our faiths and our strengths. I must purify our people’s heart and make of them, once again, one homogeneous people. Lamba and Kwunto vowed to help me.”
Here the departing king paused a while and let his words sink in. His eyes were closed. He did not have to look at his son’s face. He knew what he was thinking. He knew he had touched a nerve. For in his son’s heart burned too the desire to make of their people a strong united nation.
“I still don’t see how that relates to the Preparer calling you a traitor,” was all his son said however.
“My Son, now you too have been King for a year. You know how it is. There are so many interests to take into consideration. You become embroiled in diplomacy, tact and compromises. It’s either you become a dictator or you permit too much consensus. It is hard to find the middle ground. So was it with me too. With time, I drifted away from Lamba and Kwunto and I forgot all the thoughts of our youth. Without bloodshed I forged peace with all the neighbouring realms and we opened our borders. To me that was a great achievement. But the foreigners also poured in. Since then, the nature of our people has changed. And a few nights ago, I saw the same man again, in my dream. Only this time I knew he was the Preparer – and he called me: Traitor.”
It may sound strange, but it is not big things that change the course of a person’s destiny. Not a thousand books that change a person’s mind. Not monumental events that bring about the beginning of other monumental events. At the start it is always something very small, almost invisible. For King Siama, it was this moment, the moment of his father’s death.
Here was a young man, a young king, pure of heart and noble of mind, who had ascended the throne with the desire to rule his people well, to maintain the peace and to foster unity and development. A man who had hitherto never seen any fundamental divisions amongst his people. A man who had never noticed anything wrong in the heterogeneity of his nation’s peoples, but had always – from his childhood – sensed therein a deeper, more subtle similarity and the building blocks of a great future. It would never have occurred to him to see it in any other way but this, and nobody would have been able to convince him otherwise. And yet, now, all of a sudden… a seed of doubt had been sown in his mind. Sown by the one person, in the one situation, against which he was powerless.
His eyes met his father’s eyes, and he said:
“Father, you are confusing me. There is peace in the kingdom, is there not?”
“It is a deceptive peace, Siama. Look deeper. It will not last.”
“Why don’t you leave that to me.”
The old king, Romon, felt a surge of pain in his heart. Was he sure himself where he was going with all this? Clearly, as bright as day, he remembered the dream, the stern look in the Preparer’s eyes, the deep accusing tone of his voice, the things he said, and the burning word: Traitor. Yes, he must be right.
“This is bigger then you or me, Siama, “ said Romon. “The Preparer told me something else.”
“He said if the kingdom does not find its way back to its roots, then he, the Preparer, will never be born.”
Siama breathed in sharply.
“That can’t be!”
“I’m telling you what he told me.”
“I don’t understand, father. Why are you telling me all this? What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to give me your last vow.”
Siama sprang up, alarmed.
“Now?! But father it is not yet time for you to go.”
“Yes, my son, it is. And according to our custom, you must grant me one last vow – one which you must keep.”
“Father… I … I… “
“Siama… today is my last day.”
“What? Are you sure.”
“I can feel it…”
Suddenly a strange feeling came over King Siama. He felt himself caught in a tide of destiny he could not resist. He had to flow along. The moment abruptly became fast, fleeting. He just had to grasp it.
“What is it, father? What vow do you demand of me?”
Romon brought out his other hand, trembling, from underneath the quilt. In it he held a scroll. A faint dread came upon Siama. A foreboding.
“Promise me that you will do what is written inside this scroll!”
Romon gripped his son’s wrist. It was a strong grip, too strong for a man as old, frail and sick as he was. It was a death grip.
“Take it,” he said
“What is it?”
“Take it!” whispered the former King hoarsely.
Slowly, Siama extended his hand, took it, opened it. The first half of the long scroll was full. The bottom half was empty. At the very bottom, on the left, was the seal of old King Romon. That was strange. Normally the seal should be on the right. But it was the content of the upper half of the scroll that made him shudder. They were new laws, decrees.
“Father, I can’t pass these laws!” He cried, mortified. “They will tear the land apart!”
“Believe in our destiny, Siama. You must do it. I have left the other half of the scroll empty. It is for you to fill with your own words. But they must not nullify mine. And then put your seal on the bottom right, where the king’s seal should be. Only one thing I urge of you – before you fill the bottom half, speak with Lamba and Kwunto. Consult with them. Many things I can’t tell you anymore, they will. They understand our people’s soul more than you know. They will explain everything else to you.”
Siama, his eyes still on the content of the scroll, said again:
“Father, I’m not sure this is right. I’ll have to think about it. I might need to change some things you’ve written here.”
“Change nothing!”, said Romon. “You have made the last vow. This is no ordinary instruction. This is your last vow to me. If you break it, the land will be cursed. You have promised. You have vowed.”
Siama, a bitter taste on his tongue, said:
“Yes, I have. But I never expected this!”
“My son, I want you to undo everything I did throughout my reign. That is my last wish to you. You must drive out the intruders. I know you can do it. None has a finer intelligence than you. And Lamba and Kwunto will help you.”
“This will lead to War, father,” whispered Siama.
“No,” said Romon, “this will secure our future.”
After he said this, he gripped his son’s hands tightly. His eyes burned into his son’s eyes. And all King Siama saw in his father’s eyes were a wild love and concern. This was a strange moment to die. This was the wrongest moment to die. And yet, this too was the moment in which, all of a sudden, as though struck by a bolt of lightning, Romon jerked spasmodically and then sunk back into his bed. Departed.
Siama never got a chance to reply, to voice his wavering objection. He sat there, in shock, looking at the strong intense look that was all that was left on his dead father’s face. He felt the weight of the crown on his shoulders. In his other hand he held the scroll. In his heart his nature struggled with the things his father had just told him on his deathbed. And he felt the weight of his vow on his shoulder. A vow made by the new king to the old king on his deathbed must be fulfilled, or the land would be cursed. It was their tradition. Siama took a deep breath. In his heart he longed for peace. But suddenly, for the first time he understood, really understood, that a king is not and never ever free. In that moment, he aged a lifetime.
Never was a King lonelier or more confused in the annals of human history than Siama was in this moment. What was he to do? He had no time to mourn. The end had come too fast, accompanied by a flood of new, destabilising information. Outside the closed door waited the family, the court, the kingdom, waited for news, waited for leadership, waited for the future. Should he destroy the scroll, go outside and pretend as if nothing had happened? Or should he follow his father’s dying wishes? What if the things he had said were true? And what of the final vow he had made to his dying father? He must fulfil it. Above all, what was right for the kingdom?
He needed someone to talk to. Someone to advice him. His father had mentioned two names. The senators Lamba and Kwunto. Yet he hesitated. Once he involved them in this matter, there would be no going back. Maybe he should talk to his wife first. He was undecided. He sat there, looking at his father’s dead body and looking at the scroll, and thinking of the so-called foreigners of whom he had never before thought, and of the Preparer, and of his vow, and understanding again that tradition is the deepest prison ever created by humans, and of all the slaves in the land, the ruler is the sorriest.
Then he got up, wiped the tears off his eyes, gripped the scroll in his right hand and walked towards the door.
… to be continued.
– AKA TERAKA.
I looked around and thought
No, this too is not my home
It’s time to move on
Then a voice from inside me asked
Where then is your home?
How long will you keep on
And I answered: I do not know.
I do not remember my home
But when I get there
I will know it –
That is why I keep on moving on.
– AKA TERAKA.