In these two fierce feminist poems, Basudhara Roy celebrates the uncompromising brilliance of the Goddess Kali and the blazing light of women past.
I am lying at your feet today, Kali,
looking up at you the way Shiva must have done
all these years. Around me your abundant, disarrayed hair
is the primordial mother of night, an unquenched waterfall
beating its hurt over tradition’s timeless rocks.
In your taut limbs poised between conquest and retreat
is the assertion of truth’s tumescence and as my gaze
arches across the ebony precision of your thighs towards
the nonchalant wilderness of your pubis, I notice
each vein thrusting out in dark self-definition.
You have no cause for shame, Kali. Having gloriously
lost all, your nudity does not bother you now for when
even gazes and words can strip, what fear can a woman
court for drapes that fall and given, she has shed her clothes,
what new can she reveal about herself except
the earth’s ageless form, its eccentricity, obliquity,
precession; its ecstatic call? Letting every raiment
of mind, body, soul drop from you, refusing even light’s
solace, you are out to test the world against your skin,
knowing that every moment its texture changes,
that no knowledge lasts forever and that nothing
can be taken for granted. In graveyards where even life fails
to refute the semblance of death and reveals x-ray-like
its anchorage in five elements ceaselessly restless to dissolve,
your searching eyes seek truth’s being in day’s shadow,
in night’s unforgiving well till illusions’ demons
are all slayed and nothing remains that is not itself.
Darkness’ relentless guardian, you fight its moonless scares
largely unarmed, a lone scimitar in hand, in your blood
the vision of star-ushered peace while on your tongue,
suspended between your witnessing teeth, is an ageless battle
between silence and speech. Your tale, Kali, remains untold,
your vowels bottled, your consonants on hold. Only your body
is a crusading ship, determined to find its way to meaning’s shore.
Let go this vigil for a moment, Kali, lie down in this dust with me,
allow the earth to bear the weight of your agony and dreams.
Release your tongue that bleeds from imprisonment within your teeth.
Unwind your sufficiency, loneliness, this riverine necessity to silt.
Rest from being a warrior, Kali. Come, let me calm your commitment,
caress you into a sleep. You must be so weary of being a scream.
In your court’s taut silence, I brood of light,
the genesis, conscience, habitude of light.
Hewn in me are your first lawgiver’s edicts,
I am Shatarupa to Brahma, a lewd of light.
Everywhere I go, I am met only in parts,
vulva to tongue shred by a crude of light.
Razed in annexation to your hunger’s fire,
Manipur to Hathras, a vicissitude of light.
Each plundered robe decries my trust,
a dhobi’s taunt, a dice, an allude of light?
I speak Janaki to the earth’s adobe womb
Shurpnakha, Nangeli, my lost feud of light.
In faith, I exile in your continent of want,
belatedly discovering the latitude of light.
Your mirrors invite me to drink the dark,
each time I confront your intrude of light.
In all love-poems, I question your intent,
a Taj haemorrhaged by a prelude of light.
Neophytes still, we cling to history’s ribs,
betrayer and betrayed, a delude of light.
About Basudhara Roy
Basudhara Roy is a poet, academic and faculty of English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Her work has featured in Berfrois, Café Dissensus, The Yearbook of Indian English Poetry, The Aleph Review, Mad in Asia, Teesta Review, EKL Review, The Poetry Society of India, Muse India, Setu and Triveni among others. Her recent (second) collection of poems is Stitching a Home (New Delhi: Red River, 2021). She loves, rebels, writes and reviews from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India.