On the Roads to the Palace and the Crematorium

This poem was originally published in Manipuri as Konunggi Lambida, Mongphamgi Lambida in the collection Rajkumari Amasoong Uchek Machasing by Yumlembam Ibomcha. The book was first published in 1992; though as footnoted, the poem was originally written in 1977.

Dreaming, on the road to the palace,
All the people they were,
Restless eyes toward the palace
Some were shouting
Others crying
The rest were laughing
Albeit all of them were one
All of them came voluntarily
Some souls were speaking
Some others silent
Their destination was one
Their road was just one
On that narrow jam-packed route
They were rushing towards the entrance
Like front-line troops—all set to strike.

Now the apparel from the palace
Those are flying, almost kissing the clouds
And the top vertex of tall buildings
Those are staring; nearly overbearing
And the small feet are hanging, unhinged
With not even a single space on the surface
Their hands are as well hanging, unhinged
The bare leafless trees are standing
Just like skeletons, unclad
And at the clear sky the naked branches are waving
Just like it wants to share something
But they are all noiseless
Just like waiting for a green signal.

I’ve been in a trance, for a while
Just like them I have almost forgotten who I am
From the innocent smile of my child
From my wife though, I’m becoming aware of myself
My wife is asking: where we are now
My child is asking: where we are now
I look at myself, at my wife, at my child
I look at my surroundings
But it’s all faded like those dreams gone dim
I look closely; and I look at the distance
In front of me
The road looks ever converging

Amongst the crowd I find I’m all alone
—No, I’m in a vast open field
I can see, not a single soul
It’s all silence in all the directions
All as quiet as a crematorium

In the distance, in the sky a small bird is soaring
—No, it’s not a bird
It’s the old witch.

I want to run away,
While I’m hesitant which way to flee
The witch is standing in front of me

Her red eyes fix on me
I cannot even blink now.

In front are the countless crematoriums
In countless rows
Scattering skeletons on all sides

I’d love to ask:
Where are your ‘wooden boxes’ you belong to?

Withal the witch has vanished
Yet in front, here, stands a princess
Smiling like a heavenly nymph of lore.


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