A River Remembers

June 2012

Teach me the old names of things
Teach me the names of numerous places
You and I have traversed
In countless lifetimes, in countless forms
Teach me the language of prayer
That trickled down through generations
of consciousness

Tell me the stories that are lost in the entrapments
of mortality.

When I came I tried to remember
What stories we had shared
In lifetimes forgotten
Tell me where the stories go
When the body floats away
as ashes.

I look around
here and there.
I travel the world
and go nowhere.

I look at faces
and try to remember
But the mirror has been tarnished
with forgetfulness.


Where did we come from?
Where did we disappear?
What did the earth smell like
When it rained there?


I hear stories of home
From my ninety-year-old grandma
She talks of a big house
And describes how it turned people-less.
One by one
In revolution, and in war,
Fight and flight,

The house turned its own ghost.
She talks of the river
That flowed through the country
The rebel that the river was
Crossing forbidden boundaries
Carrying soil and rocks
Over cracks in between lands and people.


Sometimes, she would stop to remember
Squint her eyes, and talk softly
Of a time so long ago
That it can turn into yellow,
Half-torn pages of modern history books.


Sometimes, when she would stop
In between her stories,
I could hear the boatman’s songs
I could hear the rage of the river,
On whose breasts the stories floated –
They came and they went by
And they floated in the scent of the soil,
In the loss-laden thunderstorms,
In the stories that the wind carried
On the water’s back
Through countless generations of flesh and blood
That dissipated and disappeared
As ashes into deep chasms of the river,
As songs, as rain,
As stories of remembrance.


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Sukanya Thumbnail I am an artist-scholar and Assistant Professor in Theatre Studies at the School of Theatre and Dance, San Francisco State University. I received my doctoral degree in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford in June 2016. My dissertation, completed under the guidance of Dr. Jisha Menon, was awarded the Charles R. Lyons Memorial Prize for Outstanding Dissertation. My research project was supported by the Graduate Research Opportunities Award in Stanford, which facilitated my fieldwork in India and Bangladesh during the summer of 2013 and 2014; and the Wisch Fellowship by the Center for South Asia, Stanford University, for my work in South Asian theater and performance studies. My training and specialization are in the area of oral history; postcolonial and ethnic studies (with a focus on South Asian performance studies); ethnomusicology; dramatic literature; transcultural theater and performance; experimental devised performances; and community-based performance-making.


It would be wonderful to hear back from you, and you can always reach me via email.

Sukanya C.