True beauty lies in impermanence.
Reeds die to create masterpieces,
festival baskets, and colored mats.
Insects singing today will surely die tomorrow,
crushed mercilessly by a woman’s slow-moving
pestle to extract the deep dyes.
Mortality makes you beautiful, Kakedi,
whose name means sweet-singing
birds and lush meadow-flowers,
able hands and libation vessels,
one word with a fluid essence
across time and human language.
So flaunt that beauty:
give yourself to the rushing summer streams
and the heights of the canyons.
Plunge yourself into deep coastal waters
and ride reed boats to the edge of space,
for such adventures bring meaning to your short life.
Such adventures make you remembered.
Namgyatzi, the nuamė nuaf ića, said those words in the middle of Impermanence the day after Kakedi awakened in one of ler strongholds injured and afraid.
Scholars call this part the Chrysalis Interlude because it bisects the epic: In the first half, Kakedi behaved passively, and le accepted whatever fate cast into ler outstretched palms. After the Chrysalis Interlude, Kakedi learns agency. Le builds the flying machine, kakaḥaban, and quests for the Seven Hundred Sacred Things in the High Wilds with Jeiyeḥa and ler daughter. Jeiyeḥa is the librarian-archivist among the Karatha. They found a Great World there. Kakedi names ler tesekhaira child Kadarė on the shores of newly-founded Maðz.
I have been so short-sighted. Impermanence never portrays the nuamua poorly. Namgyatzi is the catalyst for positive change. Le prepares Kakedi for the dangers and challenges of the second half. Namgyatzi, not the Karatha, the other tesekhaira, or the gods, will deliver the final speech at the end of the epic when the humble basket-weaver has ler epiphany.
Kakedi became the beloved of the wind god Hiahetå, who delights in the solar wind and in the breezes and hurricanes of all atmospheres. My favorite part of the epic is Hiahetå’s constant, unseen devotion to the woman whom le will wed. Kakedi has so many challenges that I cannot even fathom today. No one knows when this story was written. Ler village raided, Kakedi was sold into slavery, forced to work on pirate vessels, and thrown at the front lines of a battle to be a shield for the trained soldiers behind lim. After le escaped, a magician cursed Kakedi when le said that a man could not shoot an arrow straight, and Kakedi went on a quest to make amends (but too late, as the magician dies before le finishes it), is sent to battle again — and then there is this: this beautiful piece at the epic’s very center.
Life does not happen like that. Kadarė exists, but the events in the epic are too fantastical. There must be a truth at their core. Events happen at random. A leader does things that make lim afraid to look in the mirror on dark, solitary nights. Everyone wants things that no one would admit to within civilized society because it could damage community.
Aneti confessed this morning that le once kissed a Narahji statue of Asämta on the cheeks and forehead in the quiet before anyone had arrived. Aneti has also tasted the blood of animals on the draining floor of ler community’s slaughterhouse. Le liked it. The Sabaji do not consume blood because blood is given to the dead and the god of war.
If I wrote an epic about my family, I would write that we exist in the space among many different worlds. My grandfather’s Atarahi stories sound so alien to me, and yet I am part Atarahi. Five summers ago, when I went with my father to Īpa for the first time, I felt like any Ịgzarhjenya foreigner — and most non-family in my hometown told me I would instantly feel a sense of belonging because I come from the Īpahi, too.
I do not know the names of their gods, how to shop in their markets, or what to wear to a dinner party. I have no piercings in my face to mark status. I have a better understanding of my grandfather’s Classical Atarahi movies than I do of my father’s Īpahi conversations on vid with my paternal grandparents.
If I wrote an epic about my family, it would be about the intersection of the realm of Tsemanok, who rules liminality, with our constant devotion to the gods of discourse and politics. The Divine Twins Anumga and Sayimga would receive vivid passages, much like those hymning Hiahetå in Impermanence.
Akah Kara wants me to advocate for immigrants’ rights and sees a path forward in that. My paternal genes from my father and grandfather make that an easy path forward. However, I am Ịgzarhjenya Tveshi, not an immigrant.
I am more Tveshi than any of them could know.
These are thoughts that can never be written on smart paper, even if traditional paper is just as archivally dangerous. My grandmother’s Menashi family had gone native at the beginning of the Taritit, when we escaped from the Shallows into the Canyon-Dark. The Menashi blood, that Sabaji core, has faded so much. It is the most important in many ways because the Menashi ancestry receives honors in our private ancestor rituals.
Everyone had an opportunity to reinvent themselves after the Taritit left. That is why the ten years that followed contained so much violence.
I need to let my bitterness towards Liga dissipate to move forward. I am so angry at lim that I found myself staring into space at the office, my hands trembling with anger. Suka has texted me to ask what happened. I can’t bring myself to say anything other than excuses, withholding the truths of this deep resentment I feel for how ler father has treated me.
This evening, I returned home to find the screensaver on my bedroom’s wall replaced with a slideshow of apologies from Liga. I can’t turn them off. I did, however, manage to tape over the webcam with heavy-duty packing tape. The video wall won’t respond to my commands to switch back to the old photographs. I am writing in the kitchen because I cannot bear to see them.
I know one thing: I need to take more risks because someone could die. If the government has no information, and if the police do nothing, someone surely will die. If I acquire information, I have no guarantees that anyone will listen. I may be nineteen, and I may have so little experience in this dark world of intelligence, and it may be true that the police only listen to the Karatha and never to Karatau Meiyenesi or ler Kohjenya, but I am the granddaughter of a war hero. Mohata was not much older than me when le saved the worlds.
With that webcam covered, I removed my gyena. I took paint that I purchased in the market today (3.75 lh.) — the same color as henna, but washable — and made designs on my face like a Shiji woman just coming out of a temple purification ceremony, the most elaborate designs for women I could find. I put on a bird-patterned dress in the Shiji style and swept my locked hair into a very traditional bun, complete with a headdress that covered the bottom half of my face with flat disks.
I hardly recognized myself standing there because I looked so Shiji. Anyone could tell that I had a non-Shiji ancestor, but I did not look like a Canyon girl. This young woman in the mirror was a Shiji temple-goer, at least upper middle class, with no knowledge of the Canyons at all.
I can follow Sehutañi because Tsemanok has blessed my ancestors. We have found love and built marriages among people from the High Wilds and across the ocean. The Niksubvya are the essence of Tsemanok’s liminality. We are where Sayimga, Anumga, and Tsemanok meet. We are smoke, flowing like water, through cracks and tight spaces.
This is why Suka is stronger than me, but it is also why I am the one who moves and changes, not lim.