Stone song

A singing sakau stoneFor a thousand years the stone at Pohn Takai sang. Every evening the stone called the family to gather round. The stories of glory were told, the songs of old sung, the family plans plotted, the daily chitter chatter shared. Elders shared wisdom and experience to the young and strong of bone. The stories told around the stone shaped and defined each youngster's sense of pride and place. In times of plenty and famine, war and rest, every night the family returned to face the stone. The stone sang joyfully of births, the stone sang mournfully of deaths, the stone sang out the family cadence at festivals. All was marked by the stone.

Generation after generation the stone sang of the mortality of man and the immortality of the family. In times before, the stone sang nightly, just as it would on the day I die. I would pass, but as long as the family survived, the stone song would go on. The stone's song a continuing reminder that the family lives. Now the stone is silent. The song has ended. There is left only the sound of the growing weeds.

Weed HomeThe family gone. The siren song of modern living in foreign lands has replaced stone song. Pohn Takai is a place of untended ghosts, forgotten family stories. A thousand years of song have ended. The triumph of the new concept of individual desire over that of family needs and obligations. The good of the one being placed above the good of the community. A modern and cold selfishness replacing an ancient and time-tested selflessness. Freed from the obligations of the family only to face death utterly alone.

Down at the Zig Zag sakau en Pohnpei market a few villagers still gather for nightly sakau, bravely trying to hold alive the memory of community. The market dog Half Case is a mascot for the end. Traded away to the local store for a half case of beer.

Pohn TakaiThere is no stone singing at the Zig Zag, a gasoline powered mulcher shreds the sakau root. The market is but a false shadow of a once proud family based tradition.

Senoleen sits down on the market bench clutching Lassie, her canine companion. Lassie never leaves Senoleen's arms, the warmth of the dog all she has left. The family has dispersed; the children off-island in a search for something called earning power; she is left alone to tend the graves of the ancestors. What is love but an obligation to another? When familial obligations were traded for individual freedom, love was traded for loneliness. Fearful of losing her last companion in life, of dying alone, Lassie never leaves her embrace.

Five cups later I stagger back to the emptiness of Pohn Takai and lay down amidst ghosts. Late into the night I lay awake near the stone hoping to hear the echoes of stone song, of a lost civilization.

Pohn Takai, November 1996

Sakau en Pohnpei Nights