I wanted to distil this story down to the base myth
But the damn' thing won't let me, because you
Who are reading this
Are supposed to know what happened; this time
No terse, mythic obscurity allowed, this time

So what was it about?

A journalist visits Georgia
Not the state of the USA, but the state
Of the USSR that was
Now a state of its own self again,
Georgia - songs is what he's there for, and songs he records for us
Did you know? When the Soviets ruled Georgia
As with all the other states they ruled
They were trying to make a single Nation, one Culture out of many.
One of their tools in this hopeless task, the banning of
Local custom, local costume, local song


They might as well have not bothered -
The songs they made illegal
Were handed down, secretly, through family & generation
So that old and young folk sing them now again, out loud
Entertainment at the Soviet's Wake.

I'm just preparing you now
This is where the tale becomes distressing
And it will become also weird in the telling
I am allowed my influences, briefly
But I may not interfere too much, they say

For the Soviets did something else - act of desperation
One of countless, yes, but this keeps me awake, crying
There were these old men

I don't know what their proper title was - I hope to find out
But I am to call them the Rememberers, or no, the Unforgetters
They walked
This is what they did.
They walked from village to village to village, all over places and times
And they stopped at the villages,
And taught the old songs and stories
A bed and food, while they taught the old songs and stories
Then off again to another village.
There were many of them
This is what they did.

And the Soviets -
This is what they did.
“Invited” all the Unforgetters from all the places
To a “National” Gathering - to share experience or some such;
When they all arrived at the place,
They were put into the backs of trucks
I'll shut up now - they want to tell it their way:

They drove us out far, far, far into the wilds,
Into the snows, into the wood
They made us get out - they took our clothes
They hosed us down with ice cold water
They left us each alone in the winter wilderness
And they drove off, laughing.

There was a long silence, after the last of the trucks had gone
Silver sun, grey wind, white trees, then a quiet sound
Far off, a quiet sound, an old voice piping, like old, small birds
Then another, then more, then from all directions
We sang and walked and shivered and walked and sang
Until we met all together, in a white clearing
Under the silver sun, in song
And we walked together, and we sang
And we took turns on the outside,
So the others might stay warm
We sang song of directions, of purpose,
Of heat in life, in love, in gift
We sang and we walked louder and stronger
In no direction you would find
We embrace our gift, we protect it
We took it with us right out of this cold world
For to keep it safe until it might find home again
Among the warm, the living, the loving, the generous
And we sang ourselves out of the world
And out of the world we walked.

They demand that I tell you all this.
I am confused; they demand that I tell you all this
But this is not the story as I heard it.
I was told only of the trucks, the wilderness
The disrobing, the icy water
The abandoning, and the cold solitary deaths.
Was told that hardly any survived.

I have the feeling that I'm supposed to say
That both these stories are true.
I don't know who is asking me to believe this.

Now that this is written, I hear it said, I hear it say:
The Soviets have gone, and the songs have not -
And the old singers died horribly -
And this was done to them by other people.

Meanwhile, though
The circle of Unforgetters keeps me awake, singing
Under a silver sun
And walking on

© 2000 Dharmachari Padmavyuha back...