Poetry ~ Shanta Acharya
Stopping to search for life’s reason, meaning,
the foundation of my prayers, a daily thanksgiving –
I mourn the dead who depart without a farewell,
none to hold their hand, a vigil or funeral.
Dwelling in possibility, I stay home alone
to save lives. Every day the death toll keeps rising.
Thinking of those who have no home, no income,
no food, no water, I am unable to sleep –
the hours weep, counting the cost of survival,
of what will suffice to make life bearable.
There will always be a loss to our values,
of who we are unless we mend our reckless ways.
A deadly virus holds a mirror up to society,
revealing the extent of our inhumanity.
In lockdown nature recovers, humans struggle –
our lives, in their reincarnations, unrecognisable.
Living in strange times where the freedom
to be human has to be earned liked anything else –
the nothingness shines through, clear as daylight,
the every thingness fades like a dream.
Lying awake all night examining this life,
an hour glass on the run, is no cure for jet-lag.
Tossing and turning, an annual homecoming
with street dogs howling, cats yowling,
the bellow of an insomniac bull, bone chilling.
A young female’s piercing cry shatters me.
In the land of my birth a woman is raped
every fifteen minutes, the newspapers say.
Shouldering the pain and suffering of the world,
night loses track of time, lays bare the frailty
of our times. Is this what we were born for?
Decades seem like yesterday – memory
of father dying, disappearing in a pyre of flames.
Never told him how much he meant to me,
the continent of my loss keeps growing.
A car dodging potholes, horns blaring, jump-starts
me – disorienting as a plethora of roosters
cock-a-doodling-doo night and day without warning.
Accustomed to the muezzin’s call to prayer
after the ecstatic dawn chorus bringing blessings
of sleep, this year’s silence usurps my peace.
I wait all day for the salawāt to begin.
(With acknowledgment to Yann Martel’s Life of Pi)
Flamingos in the wild won’t mind
our presence three hundred yards off.
Cross that boundary and they sense danger.
Get closer, and you trigger
a flight reaction from which they will
not cease until
that safe distance is re-established
or their lungs and hearts fail.
Giraffes will allow you to come within
thirty yards of them if you are
in a vehicle, but will retreat rapidly
if you come within a hundred
and fifty yards on foot.
Fiddler crabs scurry
if you are ten yards away.
Howler monkeys stir in their branches at twenty.
African buffaloes react at seventy-five.
Cats look, deer listen, bears smell.
Male seahorses flee, flashing a light of amber –
How far or near to you am I allowed to venture?
Shanta Acharya, Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, India; 2017)
Life bears no resemblance to what it might have been,
you simply play a part, an actor on screen,
discover your ideal life exists in a parallel universe,
lived by some stranger with whom you can no longer converse.
What sacrifices are you willing to make to live in your dream?
You offer blood, sweat, tears, the best of yourself, yet they seem
not quite enough to swap one illusion with another.
If lucky you forget your dream, learn to live your
life that bears no resemblance to what it might have been,
you simply play a part, an actor on screen.
Shanta Acharya, What Survives Is The Singing (Indigo Dreams Publishing, UK; 2020)
Shanta Acharya is the author of twelve books, her latest publications are What Survives Is the Singing (Indigo Dreams Publishing, UK; 2020) and Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers, India; 2017). www.shantaacharya.com
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