A poem on the repatriation of Naga ancestral human remains from the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.

Across these crooked mountains where the land curtsies to the rivers
And the raw timbres of tattered history meanders into the songs
Of my forefather and my foremother –
Songs I now sing with broken syllables and mismatched tones,
I am comforted by the ghosts that live in them
Ghosts that wake upon such an invocation
Whose lives have previously leaked out of the crevices of these songs
And have become transmuted into objectionable topics of study one holds
Between their fingers as they discuss anthropological indiscretions
Overproduced in seminar halls and monetised by museums.
They say they wish to return to their land where myths are contained
Not in twisted tongues or caged in glass boxes stained with the interdiction –
“Please do not touch”,
Or on labels where a child’s game lie paralysed in description,
Where people come and gawk and say, this is spectacular!
But to return home where people walk and move with the earth,
where the water of the forest nurses the wounds of the heart
where touch has no mediator
and the truth has no dialect.

My friend, tell me, how can you and I tell them that this
is just another dream that one keeps to oneself?

-To Dolly

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Beni Sumer Yanthan

Beni Sumer Yanthan (Yanbeni ) is a poet and folklorist from Nagaland belonging to the Lotha-Naga and War-Jaintia tribe of Meghalaya. She works as an assistant professor of English and cultural studies at Nagaland University in Kohima.