Still With Me: A Refrain in the Form of a Single Sentence Essay

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Sojourner

Experimenting with form and structure in Creative Nonfiction can manifest itself in many unique shapes and forms. Take a thought, a particular image that strikes and resonates, and keep expanding it till it looks like a long drawn sentence. What if the sentence, along with the particular image/idea becomes a short essay? It would have never occurred to me as something remotely possible if I had not attended a particular essay workshop where the idea of a single sentence essay was being illustrated. Inspired by the idea, I had written a single sentence short essay ‘Still With Me’ which had later been published in Ampersand Review, a literary journal in Fall 2010.

To me, it looks like a refrain more than an essay, a refrain in broken arms, wounded feet and bleeding palms.

“Every night, you come back to my arms in a sweet surrender; together we weep crystal tears buried in shadows deep as you take me back to the sweaty jostle of clumsy streets wrapped around you, the crescent moon that stands up on your sky bleeding not the red of blood; but the lonely hues of gray that travel the world of the living, the emaciated, neglected brooks and streams that still flow on your way, burying our unspoken words in their darkest waters, the haunting lullabies of my childhood slumber that wander endlessly in the faraway winds, the mistake and redemption of my yesteryears lying in their graves along with the greatest ashes of our shared wounds, the smothering morning mist and the secret moonlight that used to gush through your darkened rooms at the edge of my sleep, the crimson lights that used to flash your lanes, which soon used to grow brutal and blinding, the raindrops that used to pelt on your window panes, the storms that raged within your secret, unknown, unnoticed nooks and corners; and today, traveling through the mists of time, as I remind myself of your darkened rooms, as I try to search for long-lost words and stolen memories buried in your walls which visit my lonely mind, as I hear the echo of the sighing music of your rooms, your staircases, your walls, which seem like whispers uttered in naked air, stirring the darkness with wispy winds as I walk through your doors; I walk right in, through the blinding haze of day and night, a traveler of time seeking a pound of solace in the taste of your world beyond a dream; heaving with a heart that harbors dark alleys of a life walled by silent tears, waiting for you, my long-forgotten home, in the eager darkness of return.”

To know more about Ampersand Review, the literary journal and to read more of their fiction, poetry and nonfiction works, you may visit their page:

http://ampersandreview.com/home/

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Featuring Nebraska-based award winning author Lisa Knopp and her latest book ‘What the River Carries’

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The cover page of Lisa Knopp’s latest book ‘What the River Carries’. Pic courtesy: Amazon.com

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates

Since my early initiation into the world of books and writers, I have believed that both writing a book and unfolding its myriad mysteries by reading it are solitary pursuits. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that as I went on with this pursuit, this journey myself, I came to discover that while reading every new book, I somehow became one with the psychological, spiritual journey of the author himself. As a young reader fresh out of college, I still remember how passionately I used to read the classic English as well as regional novels, short stories and other works in prose, while the fictional world created by the authors used to sweep me away in so much charm and stupor that it became an alternate world where I could see myself inhabiting easily, effortlessly. I guess what resonated with me in that charmed state, like billions of other readers, was that the work was a projected reality born out of the writer’s faith, conviction and vision of life.

I had been initiated into the world of nonfiction, memoirs and autobiography a little later in life. While exploring the world of nonfiction writing, I had been more compelled to understand or grasp the spiritual journey of the authors, the challenges and the incentives of crafting moments, experiences of their own lives that mattered to them and the readers. The nonfiction works that I found most appealing during this period were quite vast and varied in their content and scope. My readings included the wide gamut of autobiographical nonfiction writing, memoir writing and creative or literary nonfiction writing like ‘The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’, the seething document of Douglass’ life and struggles in a white-dominated America or ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ and other memoirs by Maya Angelou, chronicling her own life’s journey. At the same time, I have been intrigued by the experimental narratives and the unmatched prowess of storytelling by modern essayists including Joe Ann Beard, Joan Didion, Anne Lamott, among others.

For quite some time, while being a graduate student engaged in reading and writing creative nonfiction, the thought of writing book reviews and conducting author interviews was pressing me. I was intrigued by the idea of unraveling some of the great, unknown moments of epiphany which transpired in the mind of an author while in the process of creating a particular nonfiction work. I did previously interview award-winning fiction writer Patricia McCormick about her two acclaimed novels, which were written as works of fiction, but were based out of some real-life experiences the writer was part of. While starting to talk to Nebraska-based award winning author and essayist Dr. Lisa Knopp, who also happens to be my thesis adviser, about her latest collection of personal essays, ‘What the River Carries: Encounters with Mississippi, Missouri and Platte’, I discovered that her spiritual journey with the book has been as much enriching, awe-inspiring and gratifying as that of a writer of fiction. What I was looking for while trying to understand her journey with the book was, how much did the subject matter of the three rivers appeal to her metaphorically, and how did her personal narrative and the greater truths of the Midwestern American landscape and its ecology fit into that metaphor.

While working with Dr. Knopp step-by-step into knowing the answers to these and much more, it was an enriching learning experience for me as a reader as I attempted to understand her own creative process, her unique, innovative way of exploring truths about her physical surroundings and how they merged with the truths of her own life.

You can read the full review of the book here:

http://www.prairiefirenewspaper.com/2013/08/book-review-what-the-river-carries-encounters-with-the-mississippi-missouri-and-platte-by-lisa-knopp

Read on here to find out what Dr. Lisa Knopp herself has to say about my review in her website:

http://www.lisaknopp.com/home/2013/8/7/reviews-in-prairie-fire-and-nebraskaland.html

In near future, I wish to be part of more spiritual journeys of authors in the same way, while discussing their rich, multi-layered experiences that have been instrumental in shaping the books, being one with them in treasured moments in time.

Life Ahead: an Ode to Mothers, Babies and Mother Earth

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Notes for the readers: An experimental poem in four distinct segments, this poem has won the title of the ‘most creative’ piece in a writing contest hosted by Writerscafe.org. I started writing this piece in November 2009 as a sweet, feel-good gift for my daughter’s first birthday. But as the poem started unfolding in my mind, it didn’t remain a piece exclusively for me and my baby. Now, I dedicate this piece to all mothers and babies of the world, to unwanted motherhood, to starved orphans and to the throbbing life that resurrects in our Mother Earth amidst the suffocating agony of hunger, decay and the debilitating pain of humanity.

(1)

Child of delight, offspring of love

In this coarse life amidst stone, sand and soil,

I behold the softness of your misty sleep.

You float on the dreams of a silvery stream in Wonderland,

I kiss the beauty of your liquid sounds, your lifting smiles.

In whispers and living lullabies, I drink your life,

Carry your warm breath, fragrance and melodies

Show your tranquil light.

(2)

Mother of darkness, mother in gorging flames

Within you, I seek no flame of rebellion, no reformation;

I’ve walked my life on tattered soil and blackened streets,

Crumbling, decaying and scattered in dust.

Grinding and groaning in the curling smoke of memory,

I’ve sensed the skeleton of your growth,

Floating around quivering shadows of dirt and lies.

A petal bloom in glory, lust and greed of shivering nights

My heart pumps blood for you to wrap you around me,

To grow inside me, cold, parched, starving orphan.

I’ve held you in the wintry chill of thousand midnights

Endlessly waiting for a thousand splendid sunshines.

In whispered worlds of crimson blood, gore, sobs and sighs,

I seek the scarlet bliss of your blood,

A flickering flame of your shrieks awakens me.

(3)

Innocence screams, pain dances in a hungry earth

A wispy wind uttering secrets at night,

Soft murmurs hovering over a silent earth,

Howling voices of haunted longings and despair,

Scars deep in the soul, muttering and whispering

Rumors and pain.

The red rose wounds of battered infants dying

And living, breathing pain on streets of cold….

I stand alone among heaps of discarded dirt,

In a wasteland of screaming silence and barren shadows

And listen to the lullabies of a soft baby skin,

Straining through the solemn frost of a stony earth,

I follow the voice of an angel carrying divine autumn whispers;

Crossing lonely, dark streets, a sob breaks from my chest

To see a fallen tear, the want of an embrace,

The warmth of tiny fingers in soft caresses

Crushed in brittle dust.

(4)

Life ahead: calling the golden girl, calling the hapless kid.

Blessed be the breast that cuddles, milks and aches,

Blessed be the darkness of empty chests and frozen pain.

Blessed be the crimson blood of the cherubic babe

Seizing its way through dark corners of the heaving womb.

Blessed be the smile of the little boy that dances in the rain

In rasping joys, in the city streets of scarlet pain.

Blessed be the flickering flames of innocent lives

Crushed and battered by bullets under azure skies.

Mothers giving nectar and tender beds of care

Mothers giving the softest music and rhythm of life

To sleepy eyes, fragile bodies and rosy red cheeks

Dissolve in shadowed rooms in a stormy deluge.

In a different deluge, endless mothers breathe and live

In streets of cold, with cracked lips and despaired tears.

Blessed be their feet that walk through sand and freezing ice.

The life that lies ahead in a soiree of blossoms for the golden girl,

Calls out the hapless kids hidden in dust and tears.

Calls out in hunger, eagerness and pain.

Sweet Surrender: Elegy of Bruised Love

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Snapshots of a poem of mine published by 13th Floor Magazine, a bi-annual literary journal produced by the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This particular poem has appeared in Autumn 2013, Issue 1 of the magazine.  The snapshots are taken from the Kindle version of the magazine downloaded in my Tablet, so readers, please bear with the picture quality.

The poem was originally written in 2007 and edited before submission to the magazine in 2013. Sharing with you the lines once again:

“Sweet, sweet surrender,
There are scars upon my heart when I come back to your arms
You like to prick them, stand still, and admire my integrity..
That you know for sure,
Sweet is the flower that rests on the thorns!

In darkest waters do I sleep
With the sweaty jostle of clumsy streets,
Come to me with your scarlet lips and crimson wrists,
Together let us weep crystal tears buried in shadows deep.

Your heart be the candlelight, your soul be the gold
That chains my life with unspoken sins galore;
So let me bleed, and not restore,
Sweet, sweet surrender.

Here do I come to seek the spring
In the luscious, flowing rivers of your arms–
Arms that resist to heal.
Fruits of much grief they are, surely emblems of more,
Together we have died and bled of love,
Sweet, sweet surrender.

Come, let us melt in deep, turquoise lakes and azure skies,
Pass away quietly in lullabies of our slumber.
The inferno of our pain will wander in the winds,
Carrying secret breaths resting in shades of amber…
Sweet, sweet surrender.

I think of mistakes and redemption lying in their graves
And we, with our pains, are thoroughly blessed.
The greatest ashes of our shared wounds lie

In those tombs of the yesteryears.

So let us die and rise the same

For yet another resurrection of pain.

Sweet, sweet surrender.”

P.S. Those interested can buy the August 2013 issue of 13th Floor Magazine at Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EQT19S8/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00EQT19S8&linkCode=as2&tag=krisrixauth-20

Purveyors of Sin

So honored and delighted to have this poem published in the ‘Woman Inc Poetry Project’ today! Thank you, Pooja Garg Singh, editor of WIPP and my fellow writer friend, for this. Do visit Issue 1: Nov-Dec 2014 of the online magazine dedicated to the journey of woman through the art of poetry:

http://thewomanincpoetryproject.com/2014/11/02/issue-1-nov-dec-2014/

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Violence against woman. Photo Courtesy: free stock photo from Dreamstime.com

Purveyors of sin, let me close my eyes and drift off to my own shadows. 
The sun doesn’t have enough radiance for this crescent night to fade away.
You pounce on my blindfolded body, lusting over my flesh, 
Your filth, saliva and masculinity trickling down my skin, 
Skittering across my face. 
I am a maimed, deformed corpse, an unrecognizable mass 
That you trample away in the blinding traffic of the day.

In the dark, thick smoke of death, 
The world will come to mourn my impending doom, 
Snip me of my pride, screams and sobs ripping up the air. 
Whom will I tell that not my body, not my female organs, 
But my heart, my being, my conscience 
Has been dug into, cut open, beaten up?

I lay hapless and worn, the scars in my soul 
Infected with the germs of your horrendous crimes, 
Falling off the precipice of your lustful minds. 
Let my wordless mouth shut by your filthy, hurtful hands 
Plunge from this deep, dark abyss 
To a world of light and sanity, 
Where I can reach out and shout. 
I need to shout and give vent to my scars, 
I need to pour out like a rainbow in pain.
I need to dance again in the radiance of the sun, 
I need to bleed again, as the wounds seep into me.

Purveyors of sin, cut me open, and crush me again, 
In the deadly alleys of the night. 
I am but a dissected wound, lying on this cold bed of humanity, 
Pounce upon me again, in the ignorant darkness of your lust. 

P.S. The inspiration of this poem came from one of my longer personal essays about the experience of sexual abuse in India. The essay has been published in a blogazine named ‘Incredible Women of India’ and it is a pleasure to share with you the link below. Read on:

http://incrediblewomenofindia.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/to-ravaged-nymphs-a-journey-through-blood-bruises-and-tears/

Rowing: a Vision in Collaboration

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‘Contemplation’: an image captured by Souvik Chakraborty, published by the esteemed ‘Stark Magazine’

Note for the readers: This is my first attempt at Ekphrasis, using art to inspire poetry. The inspiration for this poem in five segments or fragments came from this mesmerizing image captured by my friend Souvik Chakraborty. Based in Pittsburg, USA, Souvik is a researcher and an avid photographer who has already won accolades for his photos nationwide. This particular photo, titled ‘Contemplation’ has already been published in the prestigious ‘Stark Magazine’. Follow this link and find out more about the picture and the publication:

http://stark.uberflip.com/i/249106

Besides, Souvik has also been the Author on Focus in another photo magazine, where he also talks briefly about his photographic journey and his stint with the camera:

http://issuu.com/artestudio67/docs/photomagazine4_febbraio_marzo_2014

My heartiest congratulations to Souvik for this publishing success, and I thank him wholeheartedly for inspiring me for this synergy of art and poetry. In this poem, I have attempted a spiritual journey behind the picture in fragments. Here is how it goes:

(1)

Rocking your boat as if a child’s cradle

Sailing in safe, tranquil water

With the flows that you compose,

Drifting with the gentle, caressing breeze.

(2)

The gentle breeze does not know

Any specific rhyme or reason,

Or vision of a raw, devastating beauty.

His is the quiet song in the silhouetted night,

Painted in the pale horizon of insomnia eyes.

(3)

All that is left is the sun mourning

A shout of lament as purple life fades inside out.

The sky darkens and cools, illuminating, falling,

The river chanting its crescendo and fall.

A calling, a humming, a soliloquy of the earth.

(4)

Dreams scream out what the reality cannot hold,

They stay right there, watching over the birds in the sky,

Walking upon the clouds in a spiral of anonymity.

The birds, they have taken flights of fancy

Watching you rock your boat

From ethereal space.

No smothering, no force, no staleness,

No cryptic tracks, no walk, no pause confined by normality.

A sacred text of symmetry sketched in languid love,

Together, they will trample the scars in an upward light.

(5)

Tonight, I am in need of your mast and anchor,

I am chased by your endless wafting.

Following your infinite blue

Suppressing and hiding in currents.

I have lost the shore of your substance,

Searching through unkempt angles and corners

Dwindling in the settled darkness of sanity.

Interviewing Ruth Marimo: the Mother, activist and Writer of the Memoir ‘Freedom of an Illegal Immigrant’

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In the spring of 2013, I had the opportunity to meet Ruth Marimo, a phenomenal female author, activist and inspirational speaker from South Africa. Witnessing more than a decade of her life in the United States amid excruciating struggles, physical and mental torment, she documents the horrendous events of physical abuse, deportation and extreme suffering at the Cass County jail of Omaha, Nebraska in her memoir ‘Freedom of An Illegal Immigrant’. At the University of Nebraska at Omaha to promote her new book along with her two children, Marimo spoke at length about her experiences with marginalization, domestic violence, abuse and sexual objectification. Her visit was also marked with another objective. While talking about how she gradually embraced her self-identity as a lesbian through encountering abuse, violence and betrayal, Marimo strongly advocated the rights of the girl child worldwide.

Read here to find out some glimpses of her empowering speeches and her candid conversations regarding her book and her life. As a freelance writer/feature correspondent for ‘Gateway’, I feel privileged to unfold her story.

http://unothegateway.com/face-to-face-with-ruth-marimo-talking-about-struggles-abuse-redemption-and-memoir/

Interviewing Kaitlin Maria Filippini: the Phenomenal Violinist, Creative Composer and Researcher of Omaha

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Kaitlyn Maria Filippini. Pic courtesy: Joe Shearer/The Gateway

In the last couple of years, while writing as a freelance correspondent/contributor for the University of Nebraska’s student newspaper ‘Gateway’, I had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary creative talents in the domain of music, humanities and fine arts and talk to them about their craft. Kaitlyn Maria Filippini, a former alumni of the University of Nebraska at Omaha happens to be one such personality who has been quite a showstopper in the Midwest USA not only by virtue of her extraordinary feats in violin, but also in combining the disparate pursuits of music and neuroscience. Interviewing her for ‘Gateway’ was eye-opening in how I attempted to understand how the creative and cognitive process of music has been rediscovered in her life. The article, originally written by me, has been edited by Krystal Sidzyik, the entertainment editor of ‘Gateway’. Read on to find out more about this phenomenal woman:

http://www.unogateway.com/entertainment/kaitlyn-maria-filippini-1.2897759#.UvF6BfldW_k

The Other Self of Chaos is Love

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Note for readers: A prose-poem on love, my delightful daughters and cooked food.

If you want to know more about our home, pierce your feet in the stained carpets sticky with remnants of hot chocolate, chewed edges of ‘mickey mouse’ stickers and the foam of carpet shampoo. You can observe, over the next few hours, the unruly symphony of baby voices, the happy kitchen spatula cooking fried fish, the robotic stillness of the laptop, the prosaic murmuring of adult voices. You can see tears, bickering and grief, returning through the back door, like a hungry, homeless dog.

Let your feet soak the dust and dirt of the unkempt rooms. Let your fingers touch the walls smeared with crayons and pencils. Let your hands touch the unwashed linens, feel their crinkled corners. Do not still lose your mind. You are the uninvited visitor. You will know our little moments of disruption and calm. Wait until you listen to the rocking and weeping of tiny bodies melting into sweet dreams while you know, they will breathe safely inside the womb of an earth plagued with danger and pain. They will breathe, until the world outside will suck them, into ruthlessness and sin.

Welcome to the den of midnight movies and spicy fish curries. Wait until you feel the rhymes of our speech and the melody of lullabies. Amid the chaos and running around and the sputtering of hot oil and cooked food, you will see lovers. They will be there in the room, kissing beside the windowsill, looking at the pale moonlight in the frozen winter sky. They will find you, threaten to cover you like the dark fog rolling in. They will see your prying eyes, staring at their stained walls and carpets, unwashed bedroom linens, unclean kitchen, overloaded dishwashers and the stack of unfinished laundry. They will sense your cautious queries, your voyeuristic pleasures and curiosity.
Let them revel in their own, imperfect world of chaos and love. While you step out of this world, bid adieu to the noisy footsteps, to the rhythms and sounds, to the stains and dust that adorn the home.