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Usha Akella

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Usha Akella







FROM A BRAHMIN NIYOGI WOMAN TO A WHITE WOMAN

I didn’t dye my hair blue
I didn’t say Fuck you!
 
                     I didn’t become bisexual
bipolar alcoholic or metrosexual
I didn’t try heroin
 
weed or morphin
 
         And yet, and yet
I came apart, a part here and there
one sitting on the ground
one on a chair
 
I don’t have AIDS or irritating things
down there, I’ve stayed monogamous and true
I’ve been a good girl
I’ve kept my chastity like a pearl
 
And yet I rue, I am sad and rue,
You see, I haven’t done the things you do
 
I haven’t woken up in strange beds
I’ve never been led
 
through back alleys
where the dirty things and other things carry on
 
You see, I am strong, and my head’s not gone
 
sanskrit mantras in my veins
annamayya kirtanas are inner strains
 
I didn’t fully come apart
somehow there is enough glue
                        And yet I rue, I rue
 
I didn’t fully come apart
                     I’m waiting for my cue
To live my life like you
 
I haven’t partied in the night
I haven’t cursed the light
 
I haven’t taken what’s not mine
I know where to draw the line
 
The men I know know I’m mine
 
I haven’t waited tables
 
            I’m always served.
 
             Stable, always stable
I’ve never fully come apart
 
Only a part here and there
                             And even though some
parts keenly smart
                                           I’ve never fully come apart
 
I watch your men trace your neckline
Look into your eyes and dance
I watch your romance
And wonder what it’s like
 
                        His eyes on your lips
Desire on your finger tips
   Your cleavages that you show
                                     Your ongoing tango…
 
And wonder at you dykes
And what is it you do
                                       And how and who and what is true
                             And how you drop out of school
 
And you with husband one two and three
merry and so bloody free
 
And how you wed and divorce
drifting from the source
 
            or so we think,
            who is it that really sinks?
 
I wonder about you    across the line
 
Different different so damn different from mine
 
You live it out and about
With a scream and a shout
 
                        While I, I’ll tell you this
a secret in my fist
I live it all in my skin
 Incongruous like a purple elephant on a pencil tip
 
          I play charades within with all my parts
And one aches more than the rest
It’s my aching heart.
 
I see how you somehow do it as you like
As you sail by on your bike
                              Running in your Nikes
 
And I am safe, safe I know
guided by theory of reap and sow
I keep myself pure as snow
 
                        I live in my suburb home
                        yellow stucco and stone
                        and the stones in my pockets grow
           
I stay within glass walls
where duty and goodness call
watching
watching as they crack and break
and Virginia Woolf inching to the lake.
 
 
WALLS
 
There is no perfume of fear
in these walls,
What color is this air?
If I say rose
roses become shroud,
And if I say sunflower
its head will droop
with the setting sun,
Neither the stars shine here giddily
nor the ellipsis of planets
or the coffin of night
or the hysterics of the sun.
These walls are not the holes between bars.
What is this room
beating steadily
without a flushed cheek
or labored heart?
And a woman sleeps.
 
 
JERUSALEM
 
Jerusalem, shall I dare say your tales
with this foreign tongue
as I spin like a top in your streets?
Shall I enter your gates as you lie
under the fingertips of a golden menorah,
what badge shall I show your armed men keeping peace,
When I listen to a mother calling for her children
in fields of invisible ears and tongueless tongues,
and old walls tremble with secrets, flags and burdens
and Time the deathless watchman, prowls your streets,
when the mint in your tea refreshes my tongue,
and bread fills my stomach and I walk, walk
the walk of Via Dolorosa on the palm of the city
pointing different directions
with more than one minotaur at its center,
When I climb Mt. Olives and see dead men waiting
like chocolates in boxes to be opened,
when I see the patience and the impatience of waiting,
and prophets names, too many to remember
cast shadows on your streets, shall I ask for permission,
to enter, shall I dare stand by a wall, join lines
of people in eternal mourning, yearning, shall I join
my grief to theirs and ask for temples to be built,
idol of idols, how shall I gain entry?
You, the navel of this earth, where people rooted
to salt, faith, loyalty, three times over,
like three rivers flowing separately,
between your messianic apocalyptic banks,
What message can I bring as balm for your wounds?
All messages are known to you, they are coded
in your stones in the cursive of prophets,
city of walls, stones, earth, restoration, air,
light, sky, blood, hope, tears, wail, lament,
city of streets wagging many languages,
where past present future coexist as solemn triplets,
Shall I dare change the cartography of religion,
stand under the golden dome and let fly
a new litany longing to be rewritten.
 
 
SCUTTLEBUTT
(Acrostic Poem)
 
Sailors we are, across the Atlantic we go in vertigo trips,
careening, never cleaned of our baggage and past, the journey is
upbound, it seems most of the time with the
tattle of the waves murmuring our histories, what’s the
tell tail in all of this? The direction of the wind? No matter, no
lateral systems really aid us.
Embayed, we belong to two lands and the flag of the water erodes the
bulkhead in our hearts, we begin to belong nowhere.
Unshipped, we are exiled from anything that spells home.
Three sheets to the wind, each of us a paralyzed hulk in the hands of a
timoneer, perhaps, sea sick himself of the voyages he charts.
 
Scuttlebutt: rumor/gossip/nautical term- a casket of water or fountain around which sailors gather.
Careen: tilting a ship on its side to clean it.

Upbound: A vessel traveling upstream.

Tell Tail/Tell Tale: A light piece of string, yarn, rope or plastic.
Lateral systems: A system of aids to navigation.
Embayed: Where a sailing ship is confined between two capes by a wind blowing on shore.

Bulkhead:An upright wall within the hull of a ship. Particularly a watertight, load-bearing wall.


Unship:To remove from a vessel.
Three sheets to the wind:The three sheets in the mast if  loose will result in the ship meandering aimlessly downwind/ A sailor who has drunk strong spirits beyond his capacity.
Timoneer:From the French timonnier, is a name given, on particular occasions, to the steersman of a ship.
 
 
HYDERABAD SPEAKS TONGUES
(Ghazal)
 
When a city’s streets are pages for politicians, fitfully a flower blooms
When an eye meets an eye, secretly a flower blooms.
 
City of bangles, whose wrist do you prettily adorn?
When a lover crosses a bridge, openly a flower blooms.
 
City of tombs, mournfully beating your chest
When a bride crosses a threshold, enthrallingly a flower blooms.
 
City, are your passageways really the radif or a computer code
When lovers’ hands entwine, inevitably the destiny of a flower blooms.
 
City of kites sending dreams faithfully into a rent sky
When there is no you and I, naturally a flower blooms.
 
City of poetry forcefully broken into tongues
When an embrace is cleaved irrevocably a flower blooms.
 
City of four pillars, this heart knows the muezzin and the mantra
When love speaks many tongues the silence of a flower blooms.
 
 
SAY A WORD
(Welsh Form: sneadhbhairdne)
 
Say a word, say I take myself
I am a forest
And the sleeping beauty really
Far from the prince.
 
Hedgehog, I am, human hammer
Heat, hail, thunder
I am lost, sleeping, I destroy
Starburnt, unwaked.
 
 
Notes:
Welsh Form:
xa
xb
bc
bbxb
All end in disyllabic words
Octo/tetra/octo/tetra.
Line 3 consonates with 2 & 4.

 

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Feature–Contemporary Indian English Poetry

Editorial
    Editorial: GJV Prasad

Poetry
    Abhay K
    Aishwarya Iyer
    Akhil Katyal
    Amlanjyoti Goswami
    Ananya S Guha
    Arup K Chatterjee
    CS Bhagya
    Debasish Lahiri
    Devdan Chaudhuri
    Dhananjay Singh
    Gertrude Lamare
    Goirick Brahmachari
    Joie Bose
    Maaz bin Bilal
    Malsawmi Jacob
    Meera Sagar
    Nabina Das
    Nitoo Das
    Priya Sarukkai-Chabria
    Rajesh Kumar
    Ranu Uniyal
    rizio yohannan raj
    Rochelle Potkar
    Saima Afreen
    Sanjeev Sethi
    Semeen Ali
    Shelly Bhoil
    Smeetha Bhoumik
    Srilata K
    Sudeep Sen
    Sukrita Paul Kumar
    Sumana Roy
    Tabish Khair
    Taseer Gujral
    Uddipana Goswami
    Usha Akella
    Uttaran Das Gupta
    Vivek Narayanan
    Linda Ashok

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