Wednesday, July 1, 2020



The Rosary Of Latitudes

If I told you, I have been shown cities
like a procession of bejewelled elephants
of ponderous gait,
and the earth took their load,

And the latitudes passed under my feet like
skipping ropes under a young girl’s quick step,

If I told you, in one city,
I sat on the steps of a great plaza,
and watched humanity as if for the very last time,
and knew it was the very last time,
and this time around,
it is time to say goodbye,

In many cities I stood in long lines
for Darshan, my devotion
was the eye that looked
at the stone for awakening,
I make this confession…

I was taken on a ferry ride to see tiny islands afloat
on water like spilled mustard seeds, if I told you,
on one such island…
I knew I was more alone than any of them,

In another, where a river is a silent vein in the skin
of a lake, a poet tried hard to light the unlit wicks of my eyes,
they only gave out the smoke of incense at funeral rites,

In one town, high in a mountain plastered with porcelain plates,
Such places exist! In such a town, where anything could happen,
I walked with a poet and we walked as two sides of a ravine with
no connecting bridge,

In one city, I thought I Iost love,
the streets of that city became the lines of a Ghazal
mourning repeatedly, in that city again, I learnt I lost nothing,
I found myself at the borders of that city when I left it,

In one city, I saw monuments of loveliness
rise from my imagination
and hover in the twilight like rose tinted pearls,
I walked through the pages of the Arabian nights,
The things I saw in that land,
filled my pockets with dreams to hand out,
yet this city was not a magic lamp to rub and
wish for the beloved
it merely twirled in its dervish robes
lost on its own axis,

In one city, I walked hoping to see him somewhere,
And then I looked in another city,
And another, and another, I returned empty handed,
There were cities that would not meet my gaze,
Not one of them told me to stop looking,
Not one of them says it yearns for me,

If I told you of the lovers I have seen,
And the lovers searching,
And the lovers thinking they have found,
And the lovers making by,
And the lovers deluded,
And the lovers sullen and silent,
And the lovers like
the soundless strings of violins,
in these cities… and I safe in the fortress of my skin,
If I tell you I have been sinless and heavy hearted for it,

If I told you, all the latitudes
are the unread lines of my love letter…


We retreat and reemerge from our rooms
like waves meeting by the shore of the window,
this dance of three happens daily now
like three needles crocheting a new pattern of reality.
Simple human actions, eating together, cooking, washing dishes,
a new alphabet in an unhurried world
of harmony, kinship and family—we are reconfigured
in a lucent house breathing a cornucopia of light,
limpid walls and tiles seem fluid like water
rippling a chiaroscuro, outside,
that—the red streak of a cardinal’s winged surge,
that—the squirrels serrated scampering on trunks,
that—the unhurried drift of a dandelion.

Spring too is upon us—this too is reality—
the sun’s golden bombarding drenching suffusing,
this beauty is undeniable—a world
savaged by light, saved by light, singing with light,
rains baptize the streets asking us to rise anew,
the streets are rivers cupping reflections of the oaks and cedars,
blue bonnets and Indian paintbrush splatter the streets,
scarlet berries bud like miniature poppies on the dark green
reminiscent of a red whirring virus leaving shadows of painful stories,
this war unfolds as wars have always ravaged the earth,
some mine woe for profit,
some simply try to keep bone and skin together,
the human mind is rarely pellucid,
we understand what we can
and mostly move on in acceptance.

Not Enough

For the truth is,
I have not traced a face longingly as
an embroiderer traces the outline of a flower,
I have sublimated love to nameless abstracts—God,
humanity, and such. Engulfed them all in a
cavernous mother’s heart,
I am air loving air.

And to this heart, confession box too which it is: I have said:
this is not enough.

How poets write: how persimmons swell on silk,
and a nightingale sings from the branches to dulled senses,
how they write with a tenderness
that must come from the lessons of love,
the knowledge of the fruit, of aching coupling,
wanting imperfect contours on one certain body,
human breath from one certain mouth,
loving a voice because it is the taste of cardamom chai,
and wild horses, and a day is the color of crushed cherries,
to know the body as a furrowed land, to long for a smell
of hair like cloves, rain or camphor, to want fingers to make music in hair.
That kind of love, I have not known…nor been loved this way,
or even for my wild savage soul lost in the civility of a five-and-a-half yards sari,
I have been loved for all that is worthless, for civil things,
it has left me dry as a funeral log,
my frail poems in revolt take off as tremulous paper boats trembling in
Indian monsoon puddles           this is second best.

And this is as confessional as I will get
because my blood is not of birth and resurrection
but of a goddess who wears a garland of skulls while living in the world.


USHA AKELLA has authored four books of poetry, one chapbook, and scripted/produced one musical drama. She recently earned an MSt. In Creative Writing from Cambridge University, UK. Her latest poetry book, The Waiting was published by Sahitya Akademi, India’s highest Literary authority in 2019 followed by the Mantis Editores, Mexico edition in Spanish translated by Elsa Cross. She was selected as a Creative Ambassador for the City of Austin for 2019 & 2015. She read with a group of eminent South Asian Diaspora poets at the House of Lords in June 2016. Her work has been included in the Harper Collins, India Anthology of English Poets. Importantly, activism and community are deeply associated for Usha with poetry. She is the founder of ‘Matwaala’ the first South Asian Diaspora Poets Festival in the US (, and co-directs the festival with Pramila Venkateswaran. The festival is seriously dedicated to increasing the visibility of South Asian poets in the mainstream. She is also the founder of the Poetry Caravan in New York and Austin which takes poetry readings to the disadvantaged in women’s shelters, senior homes, hospitals. Several hundreds of readings have reached these venues via this medium. The City of Austin proclaimed January 7th as Poetry Caravan Day. She has been published in numerous Literary journals, and has been invited to prestigious international poetry festivals in JLF-Houston, Romania, Canada, Slovakia, Nicaragua, Macedonia, Colombia, Slovenia, India etc. She has won literary prizes (Nazim Hikmet award, Open Road Review Prize and Egan Memorial Prize and earned finalist status in a few US based contests), and enjoys interviewing artists, scholars and poets for reputed magazines. She has been invited as a keynote speaker to TLAN’s Power of Words conference 2019 and the Turkish Center in Austin. She has written a few quixotic nonfiction prose pieces published in The Statesman and India Currents. Her work ranges from feminist/activist to Spiritual and all things in-between.

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