Video et Taceo
(for Anne Boleyn)
The light is falling silent in the talons of time,
There, in a pulpit of imagined sin,
In the eyelid of the stars you are silent.
Silent, the blood-heat.
Silent, the falconry of love.
Silent, the lute of promises.
Crocuses of dust!
Knelled, gutted, interred,
Your puppet-years beheaded.
The earth set you spinning,
The stone took you in,
The leaves are guessing your whereabouts.
We hear the murmuring of fear
in this lake of silence,
Spindles of air prick the heart.
Here, you lie in the swaddling of stone
dreaming of glinting fields of axe blades
and praying with a tongue of ash,
Green castles are distant …your color reigns.
Illness has become my mate, bound by ties of blood and nerves and bone,
and I hold with it long secret conversations.
-Kamala Das, My Story.
Where does she hide,
the one who sends black meteors in the canvas of my skin?
I was born a girl I suppose, I’ve now become a porcupine,
all that touches me pricks, all that I touch is pricked.
Burning effigy in a desert I don’t stop burning.
Iceberg. I am frozen. I don’t thaw.
I digest nothing I roam black arteries at night,
I am a dart board unskinned animal salted,
dervish-vertigo prays often in my head.
And other such creatures:
aposematic tiger moth cuttlefish pitohuis: what I ingest, I emit,
I grow quills, I am toxic, my skin is prickled leaves,
blue-ringed blue-throated blue-bruise planet,
I become yellow when approached,
Crown-of-thorn starfish in royal purple my spines are sharp.
I am an entire ecosystem of pain.
Neck turning on creaking hinges,
muscle-fibers are wood,
diaphanous jellyfish I sting myself a glance can tear my skin.
A s a k n i f e s c r a p i n g b r e a d a n d crum b l i n g,
I am the knife, the bread and the crumbling crumbs,
not veins but rope,
not skin but shroud,
my days are a sunset to sunset,
fibro m y a l g i a thoughts sizzle apart like weak batter on a pan.
Will I ever emerge through a wormhole
crowned with stars?
*Kamala Das, My Story (New Delhi: Harper Collins, 1988), p.212.
About the Poet
Usha Akella has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted/produced one musical drama. Her latest poetry book is due from Sahitya Akademi, India’s highest Literary authority. She recently earned an 2018 MSt. In Creative Writing from Cambridge University, UK. She read with a group of eminent South Asian Diaspora poets at the House of Lords in June 2016. Her work has been included in the Harper Collins Anthology of Indian English Poets. She was selected as a Creative Ambassador for the City of Austin for 2015 & 2019. She has been published in numerous Literary journals, and has been invited to prestigious international poetry festivals in Romania, Canada, Slovakia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, Colombia, Slovenia, India etc. She is the founder of ‘Matwaala’ the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the US. She has won literary prizes (Nazim Hikmet award, Open Road Review Prize and Egan Memorial Prize and earned finalist status in a few US based contests), and enjoys interviewing artists, scholars and poets for reputed magazines. She has written a few quixotic nonfiction prose pieces published in The Statesman and India Currents.
She is the founder of the Poetry Caravan in New York and Austin which takes poetry readings to the disadvantaged in women’s shelters, senior homes, hospitals. Several hundreds of readings have reached these venues via this medium. The City of Austin proclaimed January 7th as Poetry Caravan Day.