THE LAST ILLUSION
Lying awake like the sky all night
I fall asleep with the promise of dawn,
waking in a land of rainbows
beyond our universe,
part Vegas, part Himalayas,
welcomed by an unfamiliar God.
Not the gods, goddesses, saints, saviours
I had grown accustomed to –
no parents, grandparents, ancestors, friends.
All believers of truth, goodness, integrity
and other such virtues were despatched to earth
to pay their dues, mend lives blighted by ethics.
The gods to themselves kept Justice,
humans held on to Hope –
the strong, pure in mind and action
believing most in divine retribution.
Ushered into this transcendent realm
I encounter history’s countless evil men.
These were no monsters regaling me
with stories of their inhumanity.
Smiling at my shock of recognition,
the last illusion,
their bacchanal proceeded without interruption.
I was summoned to join in their celebration.
What any human knows is finite,
what we do not know is infinite…
Angels singing carry me back gently to myself
leaving me to figure It out…
I am woken by the cold, clear light of day.
Having tied strings on trees, walls, stones,
wished on the new moon, fallen eyelashes,
tossed coins in rivers, fountains, wells,
sometimes over my head and shoulder
in more places than I care to remember,
circled several times the sacred scarab,
climbed mountains, hugged pillars, statues;
kissed icons, shrouds, Shiva Linga,
images of gods, goddesses, saints;
fasted on different days of the week, prayed
to the sun, moon and other divine powers,
lighted candles in churches, cathedrals,
folded my palms in prayer in temples,
knelt reverently in mosques and pagodas –
I have learnt that wishes are milestones
on our journey back home.
Nothing disappears without a trace,
only our pilgrimage transforms as we learn
to celebrate our brief passage with grace.
(From Imagine: New and Selected Poems)
Shanta Acharya, born and educated in Cuttack, Odisha, won a scholarship to Oxford, where she was among the first batch of women admitted to Worcester College in 1979. A recipient of the Violet Vaughan Morgan Fellowship, she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her work on Ralph Waldo Emerson. She was a visiting scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University before joining Morgan Stanley in London. She worked in the asset management industry and has written extensively on the subject. The author of ten books, her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. Founder of Poetry in the House, Shanta hosted a series of monthly poetry readings at Lauderdale House in London from 1996 to 2015. In addition to her philanthropic activities, she served twice on the board of trustees of the Poetry Society in the UK.