Poems by

Usha Kishore

God of Many Names

Akashath patitam toyam yadha gachati sagara 
Sarva deva namaskaram kesavam pratigachati

O God of many Names,
Are you not One?

I see you with many eyes,
blinding my true eye.

Travelling through light,
I lose myself in darkness.

To realise One Truth,
I seek many falsehoods.

In your name, I take up
arms and burn down,
all I had built through
the centuries.

In your name, I differ,
In your name, I disagree,
In your name, I destroy.

O God of Many names,
Are you not One?

Akashath patitam toyam yadha gachati sagara
Sarva deva namaskaram kesavam pratigachati

Every drop of water that falls from the sky goes to the ocean. Likewise, prayers offered to all Gods go to Kesava (the one God).
The above quote is from the Hindu (Sanskrit) Sandhyavandhana or Twilight Prayer.

Autumn Raga

Leaf-flames lighting
the air — burnt-gold,
amber, copper —
pirouetting wildly
to the wind's
tabla drums…
Autumn draws her
red cloak around
the land and lost
fingers find
themselves on
strumming the
notes of home…
Seeking, floundering,
floating in the air —
Odissi dancers in
crimson silk,
wearing crowns
of silver-frost
on their heads,
perform a rasaleela
to the autumn raga…


Raga - Set of scales in Indian music that depict a mood
Tabla - Indian percussion instrument
Vina - Indian string instrument
Odissi - Dance form of Orissa (North-Eastern India)
Rasaleela - The legendary dance of the Hindu god Krishna and his consorts. This dance is often depicted in Indian classics — based on the Prakriti-Purusha (Nature and Supernatural) dichotomy.

I am not one, but two…

A swallow flies into the sky,
cuts through the blue and
returns with a chakora-bird.
The swallow takes me in its
beak and flies into the horizon
to a waiting flock, then spits
me out…
The chakora-bird picks me up,
takes me to its nest in the
rainbow and drops me into
the sea…
They fight over me — for I am
half swallow, half chakora;
I am not one, but two —
I live on both sides of the sky,
I fly in and out of the blue,
I sing with my forked tongue
of strange new worlds and
stranger ways…
I have no flock, no music,
no culture — for I am not one
but two — I am half swallow,
half chakora —
But I am not lost, I am not
alone, I am not afraid —
My past seeps into my present,
My future — a strange mixture
of magic and realism…
I am not one but two —
India bleeds in my veins,
England paints my
feathers with her mists…


Chakora - Indian bird

Monsoon Nights

Those nights on the long verandah, with plantain pillars,
squirrel beams and bird rafters — the flickering oil-lamp
throws shadows on the panelled wooden-walls with
heartbeats, as the last raindrops dance to the beat
of thunder drums. Grandmother's tales drone on
as Anantha, Vasuki and Shesha sway to the bheen
of drunken monsoon winds; their jewels throwing
sparkles of speckled light at the staggering coconut
palms. The smell of sand perfumes the air in a
trapeze of fireflies. A courtyard quivers in the lap
of the pale moon, in the south-western corner of
a distant nation, I call motherland — where eyes
meet eyes in greeting and languages melt in smiles.
Those monsoon nights, rising from a fond letter,
are drowned in cups of Darjeeling chai as a
Manx morning wakes up to a tiger sky...


Anantha, Vasuki, Shesha - Hindu mythological Snake Gods, said to have jewels on their hoods
Bheen - Hindi for snake-flute. The snake charmers are said to charm snakes by playing this instrument
Chai - Hindi for tea
Manx - as in the Isle of Man

About the author

Born and brought up in Kerala, South India, Usha Kishore now lives on the Isle of Man with her family. Usha lectures in English at the Isle of Man College. Her poetry and critical articles have been published in international magazines and online.

All copyright © Usha Kishore 2005. Published by kind permission of the author.

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