In our final poem from Usha Akella’s Flora and Fauna series, Pramila Venkateswaran encourages us to look upwards and contemplate the magical, ‘unseen paths’ above the terra firma.
Do they smell of wild jasmine
as the road behind my house does
where wild geese fly overhead in V pattern honking
northward, those unseen paths (unlike roads
covering the globe like fine hair) extra terrestrials
take to visit earth?
How we fear unfamiliar trails
unlike some who desire the exhilaration
of traveling vertically up and down,
as in zooming elevators, terra firma
slipping swiftly away or rushing up to us!
Vertical routes are still the strangest for they defy gravity;
hence paradise is in the sky. But defiance is in our blood—
we court danger to feel its buzz,
its smoky, acrid taste.
About Pramila Venkateswaran
Pramila Venkateswaran, poet laureate of Suffolk County, Long Island (2013-15) and co-director of Matwaala: South Asian Diaspora Poetry Festival, is the author of Thirtha (Yuganta Press, 2002) Behind Dark Waters (Plain View Press, 2008), Draw Me Inmost (Stockport Flats, 2009), Trace (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Thirteen Days to Let Go (Aldrich Press, 2015), Slow Ripening (Local Gems, 2016), and The Singer of Alleppey (Shanti Arts, 2018). She has performed her poetry internationally, including at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Festival Internacional De Poesia De Granada. An award-winning poet, she teaches English and Women’s Studies at Nassau Community College, New York. Author of numerous essays on poetics as well as creative non-fiction, she is also the 2011 Walt Whitman Birthplace Association Long Island Poet of the Year.
About Sara Rivers
Sara Rivers is an artist who works in different media. She completed her foundation diploma at Brighton School of Art and her BA in Fine Art at Canterbury School of Art. She has also studied Art Therapy at St Albans School of Art, Hertfordshire. Sara founded the Creativity Centre, a space for outsider artists and those recovering from mental ill health, at Isledon Road (formerly Corsica Street), London. She is a founder member of the Otherside Gallery, and has created three short films, all of which were funded by the NHS. Sara is passionate about improving the services available to people experiencing mental ill health, and has led many campaigns against the continued cuts to day services in the borough of Islington. Sara is the current artist for Lucy Writers, and has designed all the artwork for the website to date. To view more of Sara’s work follow her new Instagram account @pixbysararivers and see her profile on Outside In.
‘Space Paths’ was written for the series Flora & Fauna of Foreign Places, which was conceived and edited by Usha Akella for Lucy Writers.
Flora and fauna define our cultural sensibility; what trees and flowers we grew up with signifies ‘home.’ Transplant an individual to a foreign environment with strange trees and flowers, he or she is likely to feel ‘foreign’. Flowers are culturally specific in symbolism expressed in social events like weddings and funerals.
As a recent graduate of a Creative Writing MSt living in America, Usha noticed that in addition to the gift of knowledge and friendships, her journeys to the UK sparked an interest in flora. For the first time, she noticed a passion to want to know the names of flowers and trees. Somewhere along the way between the limes of Trinity College and the walnut maple of Madingley Hall; between the splendid gardens of Rydal Mount and rolling vales of Cumbria, she had been infected with a green-eye. When she walks in her Austin neighbourhood, she is now incited to know the names of the wildflowers and trees that she took for granted visually. And she notices, how this new world seeps into her writing gradually.
Right now, the bloom of summer is upon most countries. So, it seems perfect to celebrate flowers, plants and trees as a theme for the poetry issue. In the next few weeks, Usha will be publishing poems by writers from around the world that explore, reflect on and appreciate the flora and fauna of foreign places, and what they mean to them.