Kita Mahsuri

First presented at Suatukala, Langkawi, 6 Dec 2015
Written by Jac SM Kee, Liy, Pang Khee Teik, Syar S. Alia
Performed by Daman Harun, Liy, Pang Khee Teik, Syar S. Alia
Production managed by Hazri Haili

Arrival of Mahsuri

She wants to swallow the light
of the moon on her tongue, taste silver.
But everything is dust the farther she steps
away from the home she can’t look back to.
She pats her hips, her bare wrists, tucks her hair behind her ears –
all she’s bringing is her body, herself. Will it be enough?
Her parents at her heels, lost souls dragging their roots behind them like snakes
hissing through the paddy fields. It is on her to lead the way,
their sleepless bird, their beacon, their hope, their reason.
Mahsuri squares her shoulders, hitches up the weight of all they carry.
There’s such a long way left to go.
The night lives and dies with every step and soon the sun will wake
to call them to a new land. A new beginning. A garden. Dreams.
New floorboards under their bare feet, Mahsuri first at the door,
her hand ready to twist the key.


Marriage of Mahsuri

When you brought my fingers to your lips, they smelled of curry leaves.
you say it’s why you married me – “I need someone who knows how to feed us.”
dear husband, my hands do more than feed but I will cook and keep
your kitchen warm as you burn the crops of my people.

at the table, I spread a cloth, lay dishes for your family and mine.
across me a sharp young man, a guest, passing through the village trading a bite for a song.
his eyes hungry on my face tells me the real reason you made me your wife.
in the speech your father gave when you left, he spoke of the prize you are to the village,
and the prizes you would win, that the world would give you.
honour, victory, beauty. things to defend, to protect, to die for.

the sun is listing in the sky, ready to fall.
I sit stirring at the fire, watching gravy thicken
with every turn of the spoon. I crush spices in my hand
and bring the powder to my nose, think back to a time
when you kissed me, and looked me in the eye.


Death of Mahsuri

they brought fruits to our door when their footsteps trampled our garden;
children and chatter thickening the air. a warrior’s wife, prize beauty.
a wandering musician with a silver voice – attractions for curious eyes and ears.
they do not say hello. their reverent palms reach out to greet my body,
gripping my shoulders, my cheeks, turning over the strands of my hair like prayer beads.
what do they see? god, or sacrifice?
from morning to night the villagers swell and grow, the music never stops,
the house never empties. i smile, and smile, and smile. they smile back, blank.
the corners fill with whispers, i hear every word.
their ears are not the only ones that are curious.
should i have guessed? foreigner, trophy, temptress, threat.
dead. should i have guessed?
the heat turned and their fruits became spears.
they do not say hello when they come to get me.
their hands are rough, and satisfaction spills from their bared teeth
blinding white. when my voices dries up against the closed ears
of my prosecutors, i know then:
i was lost as soon as i came here, as soon as they took me as theirs.

They covered your spirit in cement, over the dirt and blood,
and very nearly – peace, of seven generations.
When I picture you then, beyond the reach of time, I see a wife, a mother,
a woman, an eagle stalking her own shadow in the cage of her house,
trying to ignore the buzzhum of the mosquitoes outside.

They’re still here. Thirsty. Camera traps swinging from their necks
as they pray over your ghost bones, that immortal version of you
who’s wandered very far from where another language sat in your lungs,
and the names of things were different.

When the months after went by without rain, or crops, or fish, or food,
they cast you in myth stronger than stone or steel.
They forgot the woman they killed and watched die, your warm human body
growing cold and limp as the blood pooled at your feet.

The flowers smell more fragrant on the grave of a symbol.
We imagine we can’t smell the rot.