Ritual A - Cut the Cord - Week 2
Updated: Oct 14
Ritual A –Week 2 –Cut the Cord –18/9/20
Steps for Ritual:
1. Each time I will a. choose a place, in various levels of exposure to others, to perform the ritual, and b. choose an object meant to represent my tie to colonial institutions of control and my complicity with those institutions. I will wear the janoi thread throughout the day from morning onward.
a. Today I return to the opposite end of Whakahekerau, at the rocky ledge of Second Beach
b. Today I choose the Oxford Annotated Bible
2. Once at place, remove shirt so that my torso is only covered by the thread draped across my chest from the left shoulder.
3. Prior to removing thread from my body to tie myself to the object, I chant two verses from the Yoga Vāsistha, the Rsih Vāsistha, according to my mother’s family “gōtra,” being the oldest recorded ancestor on that side. The verses read like this:
Yatah sarvāni bhūtāni pratibhānti sthitāni ca
Yatraivopaśamam yānti tasmai satyātmane namah.
From which all beings shine forth and are sustained, where alone they attain dissolution, to that Truth, I bow.
Aham baddho vimuktahsyām itiyasyāsti niścayah
Nātyantam-ajño no tajjñah so’smin śastré dhikāravān.
I am bound, let me be liberated. I understand I am not totally ignorant, nor do I possess Truth. This one is qualified to study.
4. Remove janoi from body and use to tie part of my body to colonial implement. Bible for today.
5. Recite/read first of two poems chosen for the day’s ritual.
Today, I chose a poem from a song “Ek Maitra Raangadya” by Sheetal Sathe formerly of Kabir Kala Manch, translated by Ashutosh.
6. With a pair of scissors, cut the Janoi (sacrilege) while repeating Bhanu Kapil’s question from The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers “Who is responsible for the suffering of your mother?” five times.
7. After the thread is cut, read the second of the day’s chosen poems.
Today, that is “Mountain Time” by Hinemoana Baker
8. Sit in silence for 10 minutes.
9. Retie the janoi. Write.
Sometimes the action does matter more than the actor. It was cold. Today, Tessa and I made a makeshift pizza date before this ritual. When we arrived to the Esplanade, the waves crashed into the seawall, splashes climbing up onto the Esplanade itself. Coupled with the wind, the ocean seemed a portent, an angry body. After pizza, we had a drink, and then she split for a local youth singing competition in which one of her students was competing. After running her student’s music to her, I parked the car back by the Esplanade and walked up the Second Beach walk, called Second Beach as it was the “second” named in the settlement of Dunedin, but in the last few decades it has eroded away. The ocean rising. The sunny day turned to wind and gray with sprinkling rain. The wind whipped and the clouds descended with the sun as I started the ritual. Providing me shelter from other humans other than anyone watching from their glassy house with binoculars on the ledge above. Though sheltered from gazes, the wind and cold hit my bare chest. This was tolerable. My hands and feet would numb, but this, too, was tolerable. I recited Sheetal Sathe’s poem trying to imbue with them the charge that her singing voice carries. I had listened to her song repeatedly earlier in the afternoon. A ten minute song listened 6 times over. And while the translation into English from Marathi doesn’t, I’m sure, carry all its resonances, her voice cast the words in richer hues. And the cold. The chill. And the eerie comfort of feeling alone in public space, feeling the air on my chest, and feeling comfortable among the rocks and gravel and kelp swaying in the rough waves below. The sky darkened. I remained. Until I got too cold.
The ceremony undercut.
A downward punch with cold
hand in the wind cloaked
dusk. I am procrastinating.
(no to be verbs) I procrastinate
to undercut ceremony.
Let chance dictate the place
of the rope’s severing
three threads doubled up in one
thread one rope around the body called
this. Today the waves announce
to the humans how much larger
we’ve made them. Today, no seawall
prevents the uprising against
the Esplanade’s shops and restaurants
and dogwalkers and gawkers.
Let this day be forever
remembered as the day in which
I virtually met Sheetal Sathe
thanks to the internet, gratitude
to Soundcloud in this the age
of venerable corporation. Listen
to her plead “ek maitra raangadya”
Hear this, friend. Listen. For too long
my ancestors did not listen or if
they did, they did not hear.
Listen to the torment of the ocean
that we call our. The calling of the our
is less the issue than the manner
in which communion is summoned.
Yes, sometimes the action does
matter more than the actor. Sometimes
the we must be delayed, allowed
suspension in the ambiguity it is.
If our is called by the spirit of
Possession, this, brahmin I must relinquish.
If our is beckoned by the spirit of
reverence, perhaps it’s worthy of keeping
and keeping, too, betrays well-intention,
for reverence must let go its desire for
fixity, surety in some postponed
reverie—the gulls gradually circling me
making me think as though their deity
waiting for the scraps of my leaving
not realizing I bear no food.
If our is sung in ecstasy, the joy
only borne by a child being invited in
to braid their older sisters’ hair, an
our longing to own into, knowing
the summoned thing to ever-evade
possession—the same gulls leaping to ride
the gusts of wind emerging at 4pm,
not to eye prey, no, plunging back
into the wind to glide amidst
friends agains, yes, knowing the air
to be something whose making
they participte in, but can never
bade whip—the weare talking
The world in which I was first
held and which I’ve help up the way
a roll of pudge holds its upstairs
neighbor, is a world in which few
we’s have ever been of the third
kind. Sheetal Sath, sing to me of the nausea
I’ve imagined, but never felt, sing to me
Until I can no longer hold, but heave.
See my brahmin-ness. It is here, only,
in my asking you to sing. The ocean
beats, and in this lifetime
the beach on which I cut this Brahminical
cord will be gone. Country, dangerous,
ocean, cold. The sea lions
air out fins on the shores
I walk. Gulls sore. They do not
scare us off or try to make us hide
in our villages. Cold as the loam
on which I sit, no creator could
know the song you create, Sheetal,
you sing and I must follow. All these
wors I offer to you, the way
I was taught to gift my labor