Usha Kishore

Born in Kerala, South India, Usha Kishore now lives on the Isle of Man. Usha was educated in India and the UK. After having taught for some time in the British Secondary and Tertiary Sector, Usha now teaches English in a Secondary School and is completing her research thesis on Indian Poetry in English . Usha’s poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Ireland, Europe, New Zealand and India. She also writes critical articles, which have appeared in international magazines. Her poetry has won prizes in UK competitions and has been part of national and international projects. Some of her poems are currently online. Her short story “Dowry” was shortlisted for the Asham Award (UK). Usha's poems have been translated into German and Spanish. Usha also translates from Sanskrit and is currently translating Kalidasa's Ritusamhara.

 

Wishing on the moon…


I fast all day, so that when
night arrives, I can wish
on the moon…

I pour the moon into my
cosmic self, his essence
filters into my soul…

Elsewhere, the moon is a
woman, like me; but here, he
is a man -
I call him Chandra -

Shadow of the sun, celestial
sphere, comrade of lovers,
bestower of conjugal bliss…


Monsoon magic encases the air
and heavenly nymphs alight on
earth, as morning wilts…

Caparisoned clouds herald
the moon as they march to
the tune of thunder drums…

I am earth –primeval woman;
You are sky, with crescent
moon on your forehead…

We make love, somewhere on the
milky way and you initiate me
into immortality…


Henna paints my hands with longing;
I line my eyes with kajal, I chew
paan for inviting lips; I bathe in

scented water, I adorn my hair with
jasmine buds, my breasts with sandal
paste and wait for the moon…

I am the mountain maid, wooing
a sleeping God; an earth woman,
serenading eternity…


You throw away your leopard robes
and your snakes to court me with the
sindoor of your love…


All around me, monsoon winds
flirt with girls on swings, lounging
to idle twilight time…

All around me, women in red,
dance and sing into the darkness,
drawing dreams in their hearts…

I am the woman, defying the Gods,
chasing Yama to his kingdom
in the netherworld…

My chastity, clear as a prism, burns
like fire, as I enter the kingdom
of darkness and seize my light…


In the matrix of my femininity,
the moon scatters his jewels;
An enchantment rises and swells…

Like a moth meditating on flame,
I burn; I chant to the Gods and
whisper your name …

The moon rises to unite the earth
maid and her dancing lover;
Light hides in moonstones…

The five chaste women twinkle
down, their anklets shimmer
in astral rhythms…


A flame is kindled in my lunar
consciousness and the night becomes
mute so that I may wish on the moon…

I take the moon for a sieve,
glimpse your face and
promise eternal love…



Notes

"Wishing on the moon" is based on the Hindu festival of Karva Chauth. This festival is celebrated during the monsoon season, under various names all around India. This festival is marked, in some parts of India, with processions of caparisoned elephants. During this festival, women pray to the moon for marital bliss. Women fast all day and at night; when the moon rises, they look at the moon through a sieve and then look on their husband's face, promising eternal love.
A number of myths are associated with the festival:
1. The myth of the Hindu God Shiva and Parvati. Parvati - the daughter of a mountain king, falls in love with Shiva and prays to him. Shiva (Shiva is portrayed as wearing the crescent moon on his forehead , clad in leopard-skin robes and adorned with snakes) grants her his love and marries her.
2. The myth of Princess Savitri and Prince Satyavan. Satyavan, Savitri's husband dies of a snake bite. Savitri follows Yama, the god of Death to the netherworld, as he carries Sathyavan's soul with him. Savitri pleads with Yama, who is impressed by her steadfast love for her husband and grants her Sathyavan's life. This is a happy version of the Orpheus-Eurydice tale, with a female protagonist.

Chandra - moon
Yama -God of Death
Henna - red, plant dye used to decorate the hands and feet. This is considered very auspicious in India.
Paan - betel leaf - chewed in India, along with a nut and other spices. This stains the lips red.
Kajal - eyeliner
Sindoor - red powder worn on the forehead by married Hindu women.
Five chaste women (Panch Kanya) - are five stars. The five women were rewarded for their chastity with a place in heaven and appear as five stars.


 I march…

To the Tribal marchers

I want no place in history,
I only ask for land and water;
You have trod me down in
your cities paved with gold;
You have robbed me of my
land and water, on your road
to a future filled with promises
of moon and stars;
Now with eyes haunting your
Diwali night and my voice
cutting across your Lakshmi Puja -
I march, I march, I march…

You may build ivory towers
in cyber space; you may be
the richest of the rich; you may
rule the world in silver screens –
But I have ploughed my fields
with bare breasts, trying to
appease raingods; I have cried
blood and tears for tomorrow’s
lamplight – but you tore my heart
and buried my soul…
Now I march with my life on my back;
I march in dance, I march in song,
I march in darkness, I march in light -
I march, I march, I march…

I leave behind my fears for
a dawn in the glorious east ;
I bring you my inheritance in
song and dance ;
Bound in invisible chains
of free air, I bring you
my defiant smile;
My tribal creed is not to
be sold in your tourist
markets, anymore;
I am not a colourful
poster on display, anymore:
I have come to life now
and ask for land and water -
I march, I march, I march…

You may shoot me down
with political guns,
You may smother me in
green paper,
You may block my way
with khakhi and lathis;
I may die on the way –
But I rise again like the moon
that has died in darkness-
With me I bring tides of
tears, an unbroken spirit;
I am not one but many -
I march, I march, I march…

Out of a nation’s shame, I march;
From an eclipse of pain, I march;
I am the son and daughter of the
soil that yields you gold and gems;
I am the tribe of tribes, with
gods that have slept so long;
In Gandhi’s name, I march;
Through annals of the past, I march;
To a future of hopes and dreams, I march -
I march, I march, I march…


(This poem also takes inspiration from Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise)

 


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