Ritual A - Cut the Cord - Week 5
Steps for Ritual:
1. Today I return to Whakahekerau, the St. Kilda end, after walking from the site of the previous ritual, by the causeway and octopus.
Today I choose, again, 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, the Kabir poem translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra that starts “When greed hits you like a wave…”
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. I forgot to do this today. I think its absence took away from the ritual.
7. After the thread is cut, read the second of the day’s chosen poems.
a. Today, Tracy K. Smith’s “At Some Point, They’ll Want to Know What it was Like” from her book Life on Mars.
8. Sit in silence for 10 minutes.
9. Retie the janoi.
As the video attests, the wind-whipped sand proved a distraction. It tested my memory, my eyes, my breath, and calm. I have sand in my ears, and behind. And all throughout my bag and notebooks, all across my phone’s screen. I misremembered, failed to remember a phrase from each of the memorized poems. I could not remember “rough churn of bulk and breath” from Smith’s. I could not remember “miracle-working” from Kabir’s and instead said “miracle…[pause]…making.” This is the oral tradition. Why the Ramayana is different in every region of India. Why, when reciting slokas by memory, I often mismatch verses with a bare ankle entwined (Prageeta Sharma). The wind and sand, perhaps, were trying to tell me something. Maybe, “Lighten up!” they were saying to the brahmin in me. Or, “You think you’re meditative, here’s some pulverized rock in your eye.” Or, more likely, it was just doing what it does, being sand, being wind. And I was lucky enough to participate in its being sand and wind. While I couldn’t “focus” on the “meaning” I imbue into the ritual, the symbolism, the signification of personal and supposedly political resonance, I did bask, after initial bracing, in the scratch of sand crossing my torso, like nails of a lover gently and mindlessly crisscrossing the skin of my back. To sit long enough, exposed, to relax into the cold of the wind so that it no longer felt cold, but normal. And the sun did shine, and I’d feel it buffer me against the gust. And the gulls above were riding the wind for no other reason than pleasure. Opened the Bible at the completion of the ritual to a random page. Spotted Number 29.32-39 as potential source text to incorporate into writing.
Free Write (started from audio recording):
The Real Test of Memory
Go to a beach. Sit shirtless
on a windy day. Tether your neck
to whatever holy book.
While hunched and tied, as walkers
pass you by, as sand whips
into your eyes, mouth, ass
crack, and lungs, try to recite
verses you thought you’d committed
to the four shuttered cameras
in your heart. What beats do you skip?
What contractions murmur,
without your naming each falter
an imperfection? On this day
of solemn and solitary assembly,
you will find no bull, no ram,
no seven lambs without blemish.
Here, only grain, and mist ride
the quickness wind makes of ocean.
Make no offering. Stop trying.
By night, when needed, whatever
light you lost will find itself
glowing in larval bellies. You will
misremember worms as stars.