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  • The Prince
    In this time of rain and thunder,

    tormented without end,
    and sicker by the hour,
    I’ve come hurrying,

    dear girl,
    to bring you back your beauty.

    Ahora noble y cariñoso,
    cobras vida a la vista
    de su cara,
    al sonido de su voz.

    Now noble and loving,
    you come alive
    at the sight of her face
    and the sound of her voice!]

    I’m the one who has the body,
    You’re the one who holds the breath.

    You know the secret of my body,
    I know the secret of your breath.

    Quick! Get water!
    She will be a tree again.
    Where her branches are broken
    you set them right.
    Where a leaf has been damaged,
    you bind it up.
    And when her wounds are healed
    pour water over this perfect tree.
    Kumudha, your love,
    will become whole again.

  • Storyteller
    I want to tell you a story—
    a story of love,
    and then pain,
    and then love again.

    This is Kumudha.
    Like the flower
    she’s named for,
    she is beautiful,
    and always has been.

    This is the Prince.
    Once a selfish
    spoiled young man,
    careless, rash,
    he is different now.

    Together they will help me
    tell you the story
    of their love.

    In the time of honey and elephants
    in the south of the country
    near a town where two rivers
    met to mingle their slow pure waters,
    near that town
    a king ruled among his people.

    His son, the Prince,
    lived in comfort and luxury.
    He lived with his two sisters,
    one kind, the other covetous.
    Rarely did they leave the palace,
    for the world outside
    was a place of misery and suffering.

    In that same town, close to the river,
    an old woman, weary, fretted,
    lived alone with two daughters.
    With gnarled hands and curved spine,
    her sweat mixed with dust and chaff,
    she labored in fields,
    in order to feed them,
    her two precious daughters.

  • Chorus (as the Beggar Minstrels)
    Un río corriente
    es todo piernas.

    Un fuego ardiente
    es todo bocas.

    Una brisa soplante
    es toda manos.

    Por eso, o señor de las cuevas,
    para tus hombres,
    cada miembro es un signo.

    [A running river
    is all legs.

    A burning fire
    is mouths all over.

    A blowing breeze
    is all hands.

    So, lord of the caves,
    for your men,
    every limb is Symbol.]

    (singing with the Minstrels)
    The heart, knowing
    no fear
    has left me
    to go and hold my love
    but my arms,
    left behind,
    cannot take hold.

  • Storyteller
    One morning,
    working in the heat and glare of the summer sun,
    Kumudha, the younger daughter,
    looked at her toiling mother,
    and her heart cried out.

    (singing to herself)
    “O Mother, it was you
    who taught us
    the prayer before morning
    and evening’s song of thanksgiving.
    With richest blood
    your womb
    once nourished us.
    Your sweet milk gave us life,
    while on your knees, as children,
    we bent back in laughter.
    But unthinking time
    has hardened your face,
    cracks your voice
    and makes it falter,
    while your eyes cloud over
    with the gaze of forgetfulness.

    If only I could become a flowering tree,
    rain down upon your thin grey hair
    cool white blossoms,
    with scent of lemon and jasmine!
    To serve you,
    I would shed my human form,
    blossom forth, unfurl myself,
    my body a trunk
    of dark glistening bark,
    my head a crown of smooth white petals,
    my flesh the white meat of the coconut,
    my face the white of a cumulus cloud,
    joyously welcomed, long-awaited
    messenger of the coming monsoon.

    "Sister, quick! Go to the house.
    Bathe yourself.
    Make yourself clean and fresh.
    Put on a white robe.
    Go to the well. Bring back
    two pitchers of the clearest water.
    Do what I say!
    Sweep the ground in front of our house,
    and prepare for me a sacred place,
    right here, right now.
    I will sit in meditation.
    You, Sister, pour the first pitcher of water
    over my poised body.
    You will see what I become:
    a flowering tree.
    Then, sister, gently, oh so gently,
    pluck my flowers.
    Treat them with the greatest of care, Sister.
    Love and bless each one of them,
    for we shall sell them at the market
    to bring rest and happiness
    to our suffering mother."

  • Kumudha
    Kumudha’s prayer:

    You are the forest

    you are all the great trees
    in the forest

    you are bird and beast
    playing in and out
    of all the trees

    O lord white as jasmine
    filling and filled by all

    why don’t you
    show me your face?

    Her sister, Kavinila,
    poured the water
    over Kumudha’s head and body.

    And as she did so,
    she saw a miracle happen.

    Kamudha's first transformation

    The sister plucked
    Kumudha’s flowers
    from her delicate branches.
    Then, carefully,
    she took the second pitcher of water,
    and poured it over the flowering tree.
    Kumudha resumed
    her human form again.

    Overwhelmed by the beauty and fragrance
    of the plucked flowers
    the sisters gathered them in baskets,
    wove them into garlands,
    and on the next day,
    brought them to the king’s palace
    where they sold them to the crowds.

  • Storyteller
    Bride and groom
    lay next to each other
    on their wedding bed
    in silence.

    My lord will not
    speak to me.
    His glance, so fired with love
    when the music rang out
    and the guests danced—
    his glance now is cold
    like wet ashes.
    He looks away.

    The Prince
    Let her begin.
    She knows what I want.
    Now let her do it for me.

    Is it for this
    he married me?

    My lord,
    is it for this bliss
    you married me?

    They lay apart,
    neither touching the other.
    The Prince fell asleep.

    The still drone of the time
    past midnight.
    All words put out,
    men are sunk into the sweetness
    of sleep. Even the far-flung world
    has put aside its rages
    for sleep.
    Only I
    am awake.

    Two nights passed.
    On the third night
    she asked him aloud:

    My lord,
    is it for this bliss
    that you married me?
    Tell me what you want!

    The Prince
    The tree.
    The flowering tree.
    You must do it for me.

    My lord, I am not a demon,
    I am not a goddess.
    I’m an ordinary girl,
    like any other one.
    like anyone else.

    The Prince
    Enough lying.
    I saw you with my own eyes!
    I saw you become a tree.
    From now on that gift
    you so freely shared
    belongs to me
    and me alone.
    Won’t you do it for me right now?
    Turn yourself into a tree.

    Green creepers planted inside the house
    twine themselves with the cane outside
    in his country of rivers.

    by his careless, cruel ways, we say,
    "He’s a good man,"
    but my round soft arms
    say, "Not so, he’s not,"
    and grow thin.

    The Prince
    We can sleep on the flowers
    and cover ourselves with fragrance.
    That would be lovely.

  • Chorus
    ¡Lindas flores!
    ¡Pétalos aromáticos!
    ¡Olorosas guirnaldas!
    ¿Por qué no los compran?

    [Lovely flowers!
    Fragrant petals!
    Sweet-smelling garlands!
    Won’t you buy them?]

  • The Prince
    Serving in endless bounty
    white rice and meat
    cooked to a turn,

    to honored guests,

    and when the bird omens were right,
    at the perfect junction
    of the Wagon Stars with the moon
    shining in a wide soft-lit sky,

    wedding site decorated, gods honored,
    kettledrum and marriage drum
    sounding loud the wedding beat,

    the women who’d given her a bridal bath
    —piercing eyes looking on, unwinking—
    suddenly gone,

  • Storyteller
    Kumudha and her sister
    sold all their flowers.
    They repeated this secret ceremony
    week after week.
    Their mother knew nothing of this.

    But one day, the king’s son,
    the idle young Prince,
    secretly followed the two sisters home.
    He hid in a tree,
    and he watched, dumbstruck,
    as the beautiful Kumudha,
    turned herself into
    a flowering tree.

    The Prince
    "Her arms have the beauty
    of a gently moving bamboo.
    Her large eyes are full of peace.
    She is far away,
    her place not easy to reach.

    My heart is frantic
    with haste,
    a plowman with a single plow
    on land all wet
    and ready for seed."

    ¡Mira, niña!
    ¡Ten cuidado!
    Anda por el bosque
    Un descarado elefante.
    ¡No dejes que pise
    tu corona de flores!

    [Look out, child!
    Be careful!
    An insolent elephant
    Walks through the woods.
    Don’t let him
    Step on your crown of flowers!]

    The Prince
    (singing during above chorus)
    Love, love,
    they say. Yet love
    is no new grief
    nor sudden disease; nor something
    that rages and cools.
    Like madness in an elephant,
    coming up when he eats
    certain leaves,

    love waits
    for you to find
    someone to look at.

    The Prince went home
    and wandered through the palace
    troubled and confused.
    He tried to explain to his father.

    The Prince
    As a little white snake
    with lovely stripes on its young body
    troubles the jungle elephant
    this slip of a girl
    her teeth like sprouts of new rice
    her wrists stacked with bangles
    troubles me.

    The King understood.
    He knew this was love.
    He sent for the old woman.

  • Storyteller
    She arrived in the palace.
    She cowered at the sight
    of the royal chamber.
    She was ashamed.

    Male Chorus (as King)
    Do not be afraid, woman.
    You have two daughters.
    Bring us the younger one.

    The old woman
    was struck stiff with bewilderment.
    She screamed at her daughters
    She could not understand
    how the king would
    know about Kumudha.
    She returned home,
    and she was in a fury.

    She took a broom handle
    and savagely beat them,
    her two precious daughters.

  • Chorus (as the daughters)
    Mamá, Mamá
    ¿Por qué nos pegas?
    La vara es dura,
    Nos magulla los brazos,
    Saca verdugones.
    Mamá, Mamá
    ¿Por qué nos pegas?

    [Mama, Mama,
    Why are you beating us?
    The stick is hard,
    It bruises our arms,
    Covers us with bruises!
    Why are you beating us?]

    Chorus (as the Old Woman)
    ¡Perras! ¡Putas!
    ¿Donde estaban?
    El rey está indagando sobre ustedes.
    ¿Por qué conoce él sus nombres?
    ¿De dónde han sacado todo ese dinero?

    [Whores! Bitches!
    The King is asking about you!
    How is it he knows your names?
    And where did you get that money?]

    Chorus (as the daughters)
    Mamá, Mamá!
    ¡Lo hicimos todo por tí!
    ¡Deja ya de pegarnos, Mamá!

    [Mama, we did it for you!
    Please don’t beat us, Mama!]

    The girls gave their mother
    five handfuls of coins.
    They explained how
    they had wanted to surprise her.
    They explained that
    they had only wanted to help.

    The old woman begged her daughters’ forgiveness.
    She took Kumudha in her thin arms
    and she wept tears of love
    for her precious daughter.
    Kumudha embraced her mother
    and kissed her on the forehead.

    That night, for the first time,
    they ate well.

  • The Prince
    They brought her to me
    decked in new clothes,
    rousing my desire

    noisy as pounding rain,

    on that first night.

    They brought me to him
    on that first night,

    and they wiped my sweat,
    they gave me to him,
    me, splendid with ornament.

    He said to me:

    The Prince
    It’s hot. Sweat is breaking out
    on that crescent, your brow.
    Open your robe a little,
    Let the wind cool it.

    And even as I spoke,
    my heart hasty with desire,
    I pulled it off,
    and she stood exposed,
    Her form shining

    Not knowing how to hide herself,
    She cried out in shame.

  • Storyteller
    The bride sunk her face
    in the end of her sari,
    and begged him not to be angry.
    She would do what he wanted.
    She asked him to bring
    two pitchers of water.

    Transformation music. Kumudha becomes the flowering tree in the bedroom.

    The fragrance of Kumudha’s flowers
    filled their bedroom.

    Together they spread out the flowers,
    made a bed of them,
    covered themselves with more,
    and while the great city slept,
    they made love amongst
    the delicate scents.

  • Storyteller
    The King’s elder daughter,
    jealous of Kumudha’s beauty,
    spied on her day and night.
    One night she hid herself
    in the couple’s royal chamber,
    and there,
    shocked in amazement,
    rigid with envy,
    she watched
    as the flowering tree
    took shape.

    The next day,
    while the Prince was off hunting,
    the jealous sister
    invited all her friends
    to go out to the royal orchard
    that stood behind the palace.
    She said to all she invited,
    “We’ll bring Kumudha.
    She’ll do her trick,
    turn into a flowering tree.
    You’ll see.


    Muchacha, muchacha,
    ven con nosotros,
    ven al huerto

    Múestrate, múestrate,
    explicanos tu magia.
    luce tus flores,
    la raíz y las ramas

    ¡Adorna¡ ¡Adorna!
    nuestras negras trenzas
    de flores y ramas
    como una fina guirnalda.

    [Sister, Sister,
    Come out to the orchard.
    Show us this magical gift.

    Show your flowers,
    Your long supple branches,

    Our ink-black tresses
    Cry out to be dressed in
    A garland so perfect as that.]

  • Kumudha
    You are cruel.
    You fill me with shame.
    But if you must force me,
    bend me with your taunting,
    I only ask that you treat me, the tree,
    with the deepest reverence.
    The water pour carefully.
    Chant for me softly
    and follow the form
    of my every order.
    This is no game for children.

    Kumudha’s prayer:
    Siva, you have no mercy.
    Siva, you have no heart.

    Why did you bring me to birth,
    wretch in this world,
    exile from the other?

    Tell me, lord,
    don’t you have one more
    little tree
    made just for me?

    Transformation music as Kamudha, against her will, becomes the flowering tree once again

  • Storyteller
    Kumudha once more
    assumed the form
    of a flowering tree.
    But the sister’s foolish friends
    ignored her instructions.
    They carelessly spilled
    the pitcher of water.
    They broke the tree’s branches,
    tore off its flowers,
    and they ran off,
    Kumudha alone.
    It began to rain,
    and Kumudha struggled to regain
    her human form again.
    But she couldn’t.
    She could not gain her human form again.

    Now she beheld herself,
    neither tree nor princess,
    neither tree nor loving wife,
    a stump of flesh, a shapeless thing,
    a twisted, mutilated body
    with neither hands nor feet.

    She crawled like a worm
    to a rain-soaked gutter
    and passed the night there,
    a wounded carcass.

    It’s dark above the clutching hand.
    It’s dark over the seeing eye.
    It’s dark over the remembering heart.
    It’s dark here
    with the Lord of Caves
    out there.

    ¿Por qué te escondes, niña?
    ¿Por qué tienes miedo?
    ¿Por qué te averguënzas de
    dejar ver tu cuerpo?

    [Why are you hiding, child?
    Why are you afraid?
    Whey are you ashamed
    to let us see your body?]

  • Storyteller
    Days passed, and then months passed,
    but there was no news of his wife.
    In despair and mourning, the Prince
    changed his brilliant royal clothes
    for the plain robe of an ascetic.
    He let his hair and beard grow long and wild,
    and he wandered aimlessly
    throughout the country.

    His own people did not recognize him.

    Te fuiste, montando elefantes.
    Te fuiste, montando caballos.
    Te cubriste de bermellón y de almizcle,
    o hermano.
    Pero te fuiste sin la verdad,
    te fuiste sin sembrar lo bueno
    y sin cosecharlo.
    Montando soberbios
    elefantes en celo,
    un blanco fácil
    del destino,
    para el infierno.

    [You went riding elephants.
    You went riding horses.
    You covered yourself with vermilion and musk.
    O brother,
    but you went without the truth,
    you went without sowing and reaping
    the good.
    Riding rutting elephants of pride,
    you turned easy target
    of fate.
    You qualified
    for hell.]

    Kumudha, a "thing"
    with no legs and no arms,
    lived in a gutter.
    She begged for her food
    and slept with animals.
    Passersby were appalled
    at the sight of her.
    She’d avert her eyes
    from their shocked stares.
    But Kumudha could still sing.
    Beggars in the street, themselves misshapen,
    would pick up her stump of a body
    and carry her, a freak,
    from town to town
    where she would sing sad songs
    in her clear and beautiful voice.

  • Kumudha
    Before I laughed with him

    the slow waves beating
    on his wide shores
    the lone palmyra
    bringing forth heron-like flowers
    near the waters,

    my eyes were like the lotus
    my arms had the grace of the bamboo
    my forehead was mistaken for the moon.

    But now...

    The Prince
    (wandering through the desert)
    Four parts of the day
    I grieve for you.
    Four parts of the night
    I’m mad for you.

    I grieve for you
    lie lost and sick for you.

    Since your love
    was planted,
    I’ve forgotten hunger,
    thirst, and sleep.

    the Prince’s younger sister,
    she who had taunted Kumudha
    and coaxed her to the orchard--
    this younger sister
    married the king of a distant town,
    and she became its queen.

    By chance,
    a wandering group of minstrels
    brought that stump of a body,
    to the town of the Queen.

  • Storyteller
    We had all but forgotten you, Prince.
    Now you come to the town
    of your sister, the Queen.
    Sick and covered with lice,
    eyes blank and lifeless,
    you care not where you wander.

    At the sight of your
    pale gaunt body
    she breaks down into sobbing.

    "My brother," she cries.
    But you stand there, lifeless,
    you recognize no one,
    a face without movement,
    mute as a stone.
    Nothing will break the shell of your grief.

    Knowing the Queen’s desperation,
    several of her maids
    went looking for help.
    In the marketplace they saw this hideous "thing,"
    this armless and legless bundle,
    wrapped in rags,
    singing for alms.
    Hearing her song,
    but never suspecting
    who she was,
    they took her and bathed her,
    wound her in silk,
    rubbed her with henna
    and oil of sandalwood,
    and they brought her to the bedroom
    of the mute and lifeless Prince.

    In the quiet of evening,
    drawing close to him,
    Kumudha, slowly and with great tenderness,
    pressed against his cold flesh,
    massaging his chest
    with the stump of her arm.