Sunday, August 13, 2017

Haji Thexeira

Source: Reader's Digest Indonesia
- Haji Thexeira, do you remember my son, do you sing his song through all the land?
- Mother, I will sing of my Lord, my Saviour, all my life. Aye, I have seen the Garden Rock that has received his blood, I have traced his footsteps to the cross at Yerushalayim, and I have smelled the fragrance of his open tomb. Mother, I do not forget these things.

Neither do I forget when my enemies dragged me out from the thresh and were about to hang me from a bough with my own lyre-strings. Praise be to Jesus, I am alive now. I was ready to atone for my sins right then, as they had been so grave, so numerous... like so many fatal wounds on the soul, accumulated through my long life. And my Lord had voided it, dispatched of it like so much garbage, and let me walk free from the clutches of the komitadjis -- Alive, in the flesh! And here I live on borrowed time.

I am bathed in warmth in this dream, not the blazing heat of the summer of Canaan, but the balmy warmth of an island in the Torrid Climes. And the Lady -- My Lord, she is beautiful! Her radiance could dwarf the sun! Her serene aspect belies the sight of ten thousand demons defeated, perished at her feet. And there she sits, at a rock at the promontory out on a sandy beach, watching the clouds on the horizon as if the next moment her son -- my Lord -- would return at any moment. I have learned that there is a place of refuge in this country where anyone who fell asleep would dream of her, even if they do not know her story or who she is. Perhaps, we are close to the Mother's House now, nearing the end of our flight. We shall reach safety and be among friends soon.

Presently, three indistinct figures have emerged on the shallows below the Lady's rock. Taking a closer look, I can make out a woman in a soiled, tattered dress. This is Elena, daughter of Mihalis Simoglou. Her children Nikos and Chrysanti follow closely behind her, hand in hand. A wave of joy washes over me; these are people whom I know well and who have welcomed me many times to their home, where I delighted them with songs from my pilgrimages. They are safe from harm, welcomed into the Mother's House. And now the Lady greets Elena with a tight embrace, and now she kisses the children on their foreheads.

Now, I am awake. Dawn has broken and the campfire has become a heap of warm embers. My friend, the boy Galumjan, is still asleep, but he has kicked away his blanket and is shivering violently now. I pull the rug over him again, and hear him mutter: Tuamma, you have killed my brother at Parmiakert. How will I go home now? Who will look after me, who will stand up to my father for me? His arms start to flail violently again; I can only guess that he is trying to flee the lady in his dream. With a heavy heart and a sigh, I tuck the rug securely under his body. I pray to find the people who have fled the raid with us, but how will they forgive Galumjan, since he was one of those who were sent to kill them? But as for me, I shall try to keep him alive for as long as I can.

References and Sources of Brainwaves
  1. Indonesian Catholic folk legend from Larantuka, East Nusa Tenggara Province
  2. The opening of Jesus's Tomb at Jerusalem, October 2016

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parmiakert

Source: Henryk Przondziono
A child's voice, distressed, stretched to plaintive wails. Wait, she is coming closer, her footsteps brisk and urgent-- here she sprints, and here her message rings clear to the old man Mihalis, startled awake from slumber: The lads are coming from Shurikoi, she shrieks. Annika's idiot son tried to stop them, and they cut his throat. Leave behind your house, your animals, your possessions. Run, Parmiakert is no longer safe! 

Annika had been a well-loved relative who lived in the next village, Shurikoi, and was also the only reason the Permyaks had been allowed to settle where they were. With both her and her son gone, nothing came in the way of an escalated war between the twin villages. Having been made nervous by persistent threats from the lads at Shurikoi, and news shouted over the hills about the country plunging into general unrest, the Permyaks reacted promptly. Parents woke up their children, barely dressed up, and made for the cover of the surrounding forest.

This all except for Mihalis, his daughter Elena, and her two children, Nikos and Chrysanti. Their home was surrounded by an expanse of field, the closest thicket was too far away to duck into, and they were the closest, out of all the folk, to the approach of the assailing party: They were a gang of thirty or so komitadji, members of the Qarataimir tribe, tall and haughty and marching resolutely to their destiny to wrest their lands once again from the wretches, the unworthy children of the flood. And Mihalis seized his sabre and said to his family: Look, I'm not letting the Taimirs get to you. Before they reach us, I will kill you first. And Elena tucked her children grimly into the far corner of the house.

Now the lads had split up into teams, each one taking to an individual household to slaughter everyone and everything alive and to let loose their appetites for plunder. A deafening blow-- they have come armed with rifles! Where can they have gotten them from? A muffled plea for mercy from the distance, the next building, the dairy mill of Babajan's family. Alas, a travelling bard has heard the warning but only manage to duck into the building, covering himself vainly in the thresh. Poor man; they will break his neck and, in no time, he will be swinging from a tree on his own lyre's strings. Meanwhile, the mill was set ablaze, and Mihalis sensed the ominous crackling of fire, the heat on his face.

A gunshot close by, a deafening, sickening squeal, and another gunshot again which cut it off. They had reached Mihalis's pigpen. One kick, two kicks-- the assailants had shattered the old hemp lashings that held the door planks together. Mihalis counted three men; three had been tasked to dispatch of his family. Forgetting his earlier promises, he hurled himself at the closest one. The lightly-built komitadji was easily knocked over and pinned under the thickset older man. The swoosh of the sabre, the flash of a pistol's muzzle-- Chrysanti wailed in anguish, and Elena tore her gaze away and scrambled to cover her children's eyes with her mantle. Father is dead, Lord, let it be as quick for us as it was for him. Could one ever steady the shivers of mortal fear? Even the most courageous of us pall in the face of death! Elena prayed wordlessly, in that space of a moment which seemed as eternity. And from eternity the words emerged:

A great sign appeared in the sky, 
a woman, clothed with the sun, 
with the moon under her feet, 
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

The third komitadji lingered timidly at the door, hesitant to come any closer to Elena. Get away from there, Chushinta, you don't know what creature it is that guards them! he called to his surviving companion. Elena waited for Chushinta to do his worst, but what could be taking him so long? And then she prayed:

The accuser of our brothers is cast out,
who accuses them before our God day and night.

Someone else was in the room. The cloth from a dress brushed against Elena, who opened her eyes in surprise. How has this lady entered the room? Elena hadn't been looking, and Chushinta apparently did not know. Come away from that woman! the boy shouted from behind him, but his heart had hardened.

He spat on the ground before him. Here he fired his arquebus from the hip at the woman who stood between himself and Elena-- no, it missed, and the room was too dark to hit anything. He threw the arquebus aside, and unsheathing his shortsword he swung it at her, once! -- she did not dodge, and the tip of the blade grazed her right cheek -- twice! -- another gash, alongside the first one. Chushinta raised the shortsword over his head, ready to bring it down to split her down the middle, when he dropped the sword and collapsed, clutching his chest. Elena and her children watched him as he thrashed in the dirt in agony and expired, in a stretch of time which seemed all too long.

A cool breeze blew in through the doorway. The boy who had called Chushinta from there had fled in fright, and none of the others komitadjis paid the house of old man Mihalis any more heed; satiated as they were with laying waste to Parmiakert, they had moved on to the other villages. What had become of the lady who protected the family from them? She has disappeared, as abruptly as she had materialised. Elena and her children sat at the family bed, still huddled together and in a daze, but the next day they found themselves recovered enough to make for the hills.

References and Brainwave Sources
  1. Elena's prayer: Apocalypse 12:1, 12
  2. Polish Catholic folk legend from Częstochowa
  3. The circumstances of the raid, as well as some personal names, have been (almost) lifted from the autobiography of Nikos Kazantzakis.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rabbouni

Rabbouni, my sins are so great and numerous.
They line my soul like deep, fatal gashes in the flesh.
I should have been dead, perished ten thousand times!
Yet, you persist to keep me among the living.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

San Martín del Pimpollar, up in flames

Source: Pedro Jimènez Veneros, 8 August 2017
The heatwaves have come to Gredos. I hear that the wildfires have turned the field of pine saplings into a sea of flames! O sierra of Gredos, you have accompanied the Great St. Theresa in her journey to the Father, you have cradled me to rest in your embrace. How resplendent are your many natural treasures, how wondrous your crowning joy, Almanzor? How cruelly have our memories been incinerated, consigned indiscriminately to the inferno? Alas, I cannot bear to look back into the past. The glory of days bygone; I no longer want them! Vile and repugnant ignominies have infiltrated the gilded days, and fouled all that is beautiful. Yet just as surely that the pimpollos will sprout again from the blanket of ash, so will I be whole again. My love, when I find you at the end of the earth, let us deliver our souls at Compostela: We shall gaze upon the sierra with fresh eyes; we shall ring the church bell at Navalsauz.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Idiot Son

Vasily Polenov, 1881
Idiot son of Shurikoi, what have you done?
You have plowed the field faithfully all your life,
Now at the roadside your body lies broken.
Poor lost son of Shurikoi, how did you deserve this fate?
You blocked the path of evil men. Your throat they slit,
And the Permyaks they went to slaughter.

Precious son of Shurikoi, from where have you come?
Our lost daughter came home at last from afar,
With guests from Permia by chance a-passing:
Helpless folk whose world was lost in the deluge,
Then the abandoned girl they found and took as their own;
The little one, from infancy they suckled.

Sweet daughter of Shurikoi, how glad the reunion!
Into her old mother's embrace she dove,
Four lines of tears like rivers a-flowing.
Our chief's icy heart became as meltwater,
So moved, that he allotted the wanderers a place to live.
And in the following winter, a baby son she bore.

Beloved son of Shurikoi, how well you grew!
You never uttered a word, yet grew as strong as oxen,
And to the plow and harness they consigned you.
How we have insulted you, belittled you; yet you stood strong,
In your only lucid moment of life, life itself you sacrificed.
O Sainted Son of Shurikoi, hear our thanks in Paradise!