Panchali

[Inspired by the elemental image of Draupadi/Panchali, the undisputed heroine of the epic Mahabharata, depicted in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s masterpiece of a novel, ‘Palace of Illusions’.]

Draupadi

Panchali, I am, to you, my Partha, my love,
Painfully displaced in recycled domestic patterns
Circulated freely amid all your brothers and you.
The saint who determined my cycle between one coy bride
To the next had created enough music in my bones
To satiate all you Pandavas as equal husbands,
Though he never knew how trapped
My luminous smile had been,
My dark-skinned charm, colliding
with so much of your chivalrous cacophony.

Panchali, I am, to you, my valiant Bheemsen,
A luscious lilac that you craved to engrave
In your voluminous heart, never knowing
How the absence of light rustled in my bare form,
My deep, dark tresses, shedding its rhythmic dewdrops
Not in unconditioned love, but in stoic, formulaic surrender.
Panchali, my Dharmaraaj, I am to you,
The untamed fire that spread all over you, in spurts,
The easiest pawn you could have settled for,
Reckless, warped in a gambling spree
you could very well do without.

Did I burn you too, my cognac fire
Was it a bit too scalding, Nakul and Sahadev,
My youngest husbands, moving in the orbit
Of your elder brothers’ wants? Did you get
How my splinters and shards surrounded you
In a vain rapture in the palace of illusions
When all I waited for, perhaps, was the Mahaprasthan,
The final journey of my nemesis, with all five of you,
Following the slit throats and mashed up corpses
Of my sons, of our kith and kin?

Panchali, I am, to you, Karna, my all-pervading bruise.
For I had forgot, in spite of your irresistible musk
That you and me both were wiggling children
of the cracked earth. The fiery flashes of your pride
Matching my own insolence, had borne a cursed utterance,
‘Sutaputra’, my vanity had attested a lie, a lie that resounded
Every time we crossed paths, as a rhythmic reminder.

Panchali, I am, to you, my Sakha, Krishna,
The smoke and fury of my mind’s badland
Soothed from time to time, when your hands touched mine.
What magic did your words unfold
To this dark, forlorn child-woman,
As you hovered in my life, presiding over its queer equations?
Dream girl, I wasn’t for you, when disrobed,
shunned of my womanly honour, your drapes covered
my bruised, black moon. Your words revealed,
Like half-shining flashlights, draped my life
In the ambiguous sheen I myself couldn’t fathom well.
Here, you touch my hands yet again, for one last time,
Where I find myself beyond the rims of time, and tell me
I have played my part well in this chaotic and tumultuous play.
Is this a new beginning, where I dissolve and form anew?
Panchali, I am, look, the boundless sky, my new palace, engulfs us all.

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The Firebird

 

And then, they hit me, just below the belt,

woman strength

Image Courtesy: Pinterest.com

And shoved me to a corner to preach me
With their habitual sermons of sanctity,
Just when I was clasping the clay molds
To turn them into spitting images of myself,
My everyday girlfriends, sisters, dainty rivers prancing
and preening around fire-lit open courtyards.

And then, they sucked the lilting rhythms of a female fetus
Out of my hungering womb, and left me to die every day
With the barren shrieks of a hopeless nothing,
My femaleness, a tough, bottomless pit
which they entered again, and again, and again,
tirelessly, until a male offspring is borne.

……Did my river bleed when my trident perforated
demon skins? I ran, and ran, and ran
Like a beast, chased, driven away,
Until the unscathed horizon took me in.
Who is it that chases me still? The rough undone
of voyeur fists and limbs? All I have sought for
Is a man sheltering my hidden pores,
A chapati between my hungry teeth, my chapped lips.

…….And then, they smothered me dead, because as Draupadi,
My fiery red cajoled them into hostility. As Sita,
My chastity made them push their boundaries.
As Kunti, the unblemished terrains of my want
enticed them to father my legendary sons.
As the black, ‘dalit’ girl, the earth and water of my being
was a living proof of profanity, a sacrilege
that they sanctified by feasting on the tar of my flesh.

And then, you who have crushed and torn my silky petals,
You who have made me sing lust-ridden songs,
You who have taught our mothers to kill us in the womb,
To mourn our birth while their cherished sons blossom
in their milky warmth, you who have made us
The sacrificing Sati and Behula, brimming with fortitude,
You who have sold our flesh for six pence, will sit at my feet,
Prostrate, when I am the naked, elemental Kali,
at my apocalyptic best. And then, when I adorn my forehead
with the toxic blood of generations, my scarlet tongue,
spread out, larger than life, glitters, gleams with peril.

Let me be the savage cry, the dark, scraped beast
Before you call me the Goddess and the whore, yet again.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. January 27, 2016

Forlorn

moonlit night

Image Source: hdw.eweb4.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did I lose you somewhere
Between the hyacinth and the ribbons
The pleats and folds of my adult drape?

I know you still wait for me, my moon
As the night flutters, the unfailing rose
Drunk with solitude and honeyed longing.

I breathe shallow and deep, my eyes
Swept away by stardust, I am alone
You milk, eager and firm, waits for me
At the shore of the night.

Between my trembling lips and voice,
Your song hides in the fugitive wind,
Slender and silent, you walk away,
Barefoot, soaking in the night’s last ashes.

Did I call you, my white hills
Breaking, sinking at the wake of dawn?
I return to the day, dust blown
Crushing sand beneath my feet,

You have sliced me to pieces,
I move, unsure, forlorn, in spirals
Of smoke as I call you out
My moorings trapped in the day, dying.

Footnote: Written for a weekend writing prompt on the moon, “the quintessential silver orb that steals our heart every night”, as had been put by my fellow poet Vinita Agrawal at the Woman Inc Poetry Project.
Copyright: Lopa Banerjee. February 23, 2015

House and the Housewife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kitchen spatula, drops of leaves
Bonfire of the soul,
The light of smoke, burning,
Twisting, dead voice of the bird,
Long lost in desired migration.

Flames of twilight, faint kisses
Fall and melt, unhappy embers,
Hurricanes of dreams hauling on,
Failed, stained with recycled anguish,
Scars of practiced jerks, moves, copulation.

Breaking into waves, sobs, poetry of want
The doll house cries, mocking,
Moist desires trampled, endless rivers of
Afflicted hours. The breasts suckled by
Mortal flame of infants, born, extracted
From the life of fire, crooning, nourished.

Whispering, shouting incoherent, bursting forth
Like a weapon, crushing like an evening song
Solitary dreams cooing, alone, like a tunnel,
Flapping wings, echoing, rising in oblivion,
Dark leaves muttering, shattered, undaunted.

The Forgotten Swan Songs

 

fairy tale

Image source: SurLaLune Fairy Tales Blog. Surlalunefairytales.blogspot.com

 

Rippling in melancholy melodies,
Washing past the jagged edges
Of my furtive calf-love,
My girlhood days breathe in a little nook
Of oblivion, a passing phase,
Forgotten pearls, scratched and resurfaced
In the waves of my kitchen songs,
Nestled in embalming domesticity.

My days, recycling and monitoring
At every turn, I thought my swan songs were long dead.
But a quicksilver flash of torn off petals
Wave at me in the mirror.

In their hushed fog, their half-finished stories
I feel, that their contours are running
Deeper than my brain had thought.

Footnotes: My poetic attempt to celebrate, search for, bring out the scattered pearls of my girlhood days. The days of my fumbling with hormones and love songs, the days of my secretly spun girl stories, the days of my sunshine dreams and the trophy of attaining puberty. Created and developed today while hosting an online poetry workshop for ‘The Woman Inc Poetry Project’. Thank you, Pooja Garg Singh and all other friends at TWIPP!

 

A Woman I Am

images

The woman, the mother and the daughter. Image source: http://www.stressreliefwizard.org

“Which of your roles you find central to your being ? Being a mom, or daughter, or teacher, or student, a professional or a homemaker, or anything else ? Write, and then write a poem too”.

This was a weekend writing prompt that one of my virtual friends, a poet/writer had initiated in an online writing forum in Facebook dedicated to women writers/poets and/or artists. Based on her beautiful weekend writing prompt, here is my humble attempt to define myself as the mother, the daughter. The umbilical cord, long severed physically, remains within us and reshapes our life, in ways more than one.

 

A Woman I am

(1)
The umbilical cord is bespattered
With blood, mucus and a chill of pain.
The child, first a foreign growth
And then, a mirror image of her own,
A wet, moving mass, is expelled
After spasms rushing out, gushing, in waves.
In laboring, birthing, in the pain
And bliss that returns,
The daughter becomes the mother,
The mother comes to the daughter in shared wound
At birth, both are united by a raw pain of separation.
A child with a descent line, sustained with
Her life-blood and love, fingers, nails, toes,
Eyes, ears, nose, lips, trailing after her.

                              (2)
A woman I am, the umbilical cord, the conjoined life
Of my mother and me, long dried up, severed
Yet a fire in my soul that illuminates my trails.
Walking barefoot, parched and reckless,
Swimming, moving, arms wide spread
In the lost tides of time,
The cord, long lost, pulls, tugs at my womanhood
In elemental wonder. The cord is the dance,
The merry-go-round and the preciousness of love
As I writhe in pain, longing.
I am gorging in smoke and flames
As the child is borne in beauty and pain.
I am the woman, the daughter and the mother
A little nursling, I squirm, thrash, snuffle
Am unbuttoned inside milky warmth.
A woman, a lustrous being, the miracle of birth
Latches onto my being, holds onto my seraphin wings.
A woman I am, the umbilical cord beckons me.

The Scarlet Rain: Celebrating Womanhood

Image

‘Femininity’. Image courtesy: Yogayomu.com

Feeling so happy, fulfilled and empowered from within, having completed my first poetry compilation of 60 pages, ‘All My Plain, Earthen Songs’. In this compilation, I attempt to present the image of the body in its various forms and manifestations, being a metaphor for both life and death. The poems in the collection are poems of the body, bruises and blood, words coming out of the strained ribs of our Mother Earth, words giving expression to the hollowness and inviting quiet of cities, landscapes and terrains in our dreams and waking. The poems also speak about the phenomenon of death, and the quiet, voiceless cessation that comes along with it. 

‘The Scarlet Rain’ is a poem which is a part of of this recently finished poetry compilation. It celebrates a woman’s body, the first shock of knowing about our menstrual cycle when we are very young, and the gradual surrendering and discovery of our body, our sexuality. It has been recently published by B’Khush.com in their section B’Creative, showcasing poetry and short stories written by women across the globe. To know more about my monthly column at B’Khush, and to read the entire poem, do visit:

http://bcreative.bkhush.com/dev/content/scattered-pearls-scarlet-rain