Shoreline Submission

April 23, 2018

From Eden, to Adam’s Peak to the Sea

Filed under: Uncategorized — irajdealwis @ 3:24 am

From Eden On and On

 

He fell, his first step the earth hugged and kept

And he lay there: man’s first day here he was

All curled.

 

He was Adam and he still rose at dawn,

a naked breath hung high in the mountain air,

And he asked not why, and how, and where to?

For he knew:

That God had made him to be alone,

To be with Hawa, and here, but all alone,

And saw his narrow mountain top,

Above the world between the hills and the ocean,

Couldn’t hold all three.

 

Down, down, down the hills he walked,

Unknowing the thing that called him,

To the Ocean he drew close,

Hingul, Kurundu, nuwa, araliya,

The winged song trees he named

And the dive of the black crow,

Again and again from his lonely perch.

Nor did Hawa, from the taunting shade appear.

I am alone, Adam said.

 

Under a vast leaf’s shade

a jackal licking blades of blood

Falling from a sambur’s hide:

“Handun diviya Adam named.

A tongue soft and curled and snapping,

“Kottiya” Adam screamed,

 

And from a leopard’s teeth

He saw blood first spill,

And the prey maker become prey.

 

Did he then see how Cain would Abel Kill,

Once, here, again, and again, and there,

And still?

“I am alone” Adam wept,

His tears each a precious stone, you and I

Can find in these valleys still,

And give to the war widow’s child,

Or sell on to the Queen’s own kind

And try and feel a little less alone.

 

Down and down from the hills he walked.

Till he found a river, and the river found the sea.

He stood and watched

 

the silver rags dancing on a dumb surf,

repeating roars,

each wave breaking from the ocean,

And flinging on the scorching sand,

Each alone in its making and its end.

 

A man whose tame fish keeps him afloat,

above waves,

green like the young roots growing from rivers,

I have heard said, taught Adam to pray.

They say he learnt to kneel, and bow,

In the silent singing mid-day sun,

And even as his neck burnt brown, and then black,

He heard his Lord and felt his love.

 

The broken wave strolled back into the sea,

The bleeding deer to dust,

And the hope of seeing Hawa,

Her new naked hands, and neck, and face,

Clothed and naked again and again,

For this could Adam learn to long.

 

By the Ocean, not far from where I live,

Adam learnt to pray.

 

 

As Islam moved out of Arabia, it picks up the languages, stories, sensibilities, and practices of the places it arrived in. This poem is a reflection of how Islam has adopted to the landscape and the stories of Sri Lanka. Sri Pada, or the sacred footprint at peak of Mt. Samanala, that I grew up worshiping as the footprint of the Buddha, is known as Adam’s Peak to Sri Lanka’s Muslims. It is believed that Adam fell and fell when he was cast from Eden and he landed atop this peak, and his first footprint was marked on a stone. He then walked through the jungles of the island till he reached the Ocean, and met al-Khidr who taught him how to pray, and seek his way back to Hawa. The poem melds this story, and the experience of exile from a place of security and meaning, and how our understanding of the divine changes radically in the context of exile.

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