Five Brothers

And as a boy, I wandered through the forests of the south,
Those strange forests with trees of giant extension,
And musky fern residing beneath
whose geometric delivery I realised later to be my oblivion.

Those forests delighted me with stories:
the five brothers of my father’s breath of my mother’s kiss danced before me,
an immense wayang kulit of dried bark and branch,
a shimmering children’s theatre, in battle, in conversation,
unfolding a cycle of gamelan.

And these spirits followed me into our house.
And I said to my mother: look at these five, dancing in front of us.
And I said to my father: look at these five, battling, conversing,
unfolding a cycle of gamelan.

And we were delighted.

Then I forgot this, and learnt the sciences and learnt how to speak.

Then I passed through youth and, and recalled, and thought through the filter of my aquired sciences:
“I must travel now to the north, to the Asian city, my father’s city,
to study this culture. The culture of the five: this will crown
my science, this will crown my speech.”

And so I travelled north to the Asian city, my father’s city,
from which these stories are said to have their origin,
to study my father’s culture, the science of the five to crown my vision,
to study my people’s gamelan, that its cycles might run through my speech.

I searched for the gamelan, but found it broken and forsaken.
I looked for my dhalang, but found only impoverished tricksters.
I found my cousins to aid my search: and they showed me their
markets in towers of steel, their electrified music halls.
And I perceived the purity of their Western acquisition.

I went with my cousins and appreciated: I understood myself to be an entirely
southern soul, an uncouth oriental projection upon the purity
of their western acquisition.
I remarked on this to them and they affirmed, and we
laughed at this paradox, that my west might be their east and their east my west.

But, looking out from the car window, into the dark jungle humidity of the
streets
I perceived within the perfectly manicured, encased trees of that city,
the five brothers again, calling
out to me, dancing in multiplied wayang kulit of delicate Asian branch and leaf,
a shimmering children’s theatre, in battle, in conversation,
unfolding a cycle of gamelan.

And I said to my cousins: look at these five, dancing in front of us.
And I said to my cousins: look at these five, battling, conversing,
unfolding a cycle of gamelan.
But my cousins laughed and said: we see nothing, this is your imagination.

And I became sad, looking out from the window,
because now I understood: these spirits were from my father’s breath,
from my mother’s kiss.
They were not located in this city.
They were born only of my mind
and I had not travelled to find them here,
These five had followed me alone, pictures born of my mind.

And I understood this meant I was alone,
even as my mind filled the entire city now with these stories,
this conversation, this cycle of gamelan,
The material reality of the land was for my cousins, for I understood
that my vision and their material did not meet.
And so I wept at the beauty of my folly.

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