The Chinese Cemetery

The smile in the photograph
Is no reflection of what lies
In the dark hollow of the tunnels
Behind cement squares in rows,
Each, one-by-one in size
Marked by dates, picture and name
Of a tiny flash
A dot of life in the universe

Ashes in urns
Ancestors as concepts
In treasure vaults
Wrapped in rituals
Recycling memory
year after year

For the snow to melt
And the river to flow

Bones crackling
In sacred pyre,

The funeral
In The World of Suzie Wong
Consumed the baby,
and then, lapped up
-the letter of introduction-
“To whom-so-ever it may concern,”

Flames are messengers
Carrying the known
To the unknown

Life to afterlife

 

Avenue of Stars

Hanging stars
Suspended in dusk
Stars below
under the feet,

Stars over the head,

Stars wandering away
From lovers’ eyes,
Slipping out of children’s dreams

Ocean waves
Splashing ripples of colour
Over innocent wonder pulled out
of nursery rhymes

Chinese wrinkles
Giggling and breaking into
shimmering creaks
And vales twinkling

The old woman tearing her hair
squealing in Cantonese glee

clearing cobwebs of silence
that mask multitudes

amidst the din of stars.

 

Pagoda Poems

(Inspired by poems hanging over and around the master pagoda near Hanoi, Vietnam while on a visit to Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Poetry Festival)

1.
nine times over
the word nothingness

emerges again
and yet again
in the twenty-word poem
by the master monk

the dragon, they say,
descends into the sea
searching for meaning
and spewing jewels
jewels that become rocks
with stalactites piercing into
bellies of rocks

columns of light rise
dressed in stunning colours

devils dancing
in step with gods

all in all,
adding to nothingness
and making meaning

 

2.
what is real?

image of the bird
fluttering in the sky
or the one still
in the gushing river

the wavy moon
in the water
or the one above
that is steady

parallel

forever

 

Sukrita Paul Kumar

Sukrita Paul Kumar

Born and brought up in Kenya, Sukrita Paul Kumar is a noted poet and critic, teaching literature in Delhi currently. Formerly, a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, she is an Honorary Fellow of the International Writing Programme, University of Iowa (USA), as also of Hong Kong Baptist University and Cambridge Seminars. She is honorary faculty at the Durrell Centre at Corfu (Greece). At present she holds the Aruna Asaf Ali Chair at the University of Delhi. She has published several collections of poems and many critical books including Dream Catcher, Without Margins, Folds of Silence, Narrating Partition, The New Story, Man, Woman and Androgyny and Ismat, Her Life, Her Times. As Director of a UNESCO project, she edited a volume of Urdu short stories in English, Mapping Memories. In 2006, she published, as its Chief Editor, Cultural Diversity in India (MacMillan India) prescribed at Delhi University. While her latest co-edited volume is Speaking For Herself: An Anthology of Asian Women’s Writings (Penguin India), she has also recently published Poems Come Home (HarperCollins) & Rowing Together (Rajkamal), bilingual books of poems with Gulzar and a fellow Hindi poet, Savita Singh. Her translations of fiction have been published by Katha and National Book Trust (Stories of Joginder Paul and Sleepwalkers). A recipient of many prestigious fellowships, she has lectured in many universities in India and abroad. Her paintings have been exhibited and published in several journals. She has been the Guest Editor of several journals in India and abroad, including Crossing Over (University of Hawaii), “Muse India” (Indian Literatures) and “Margaret Lawrence Review.”

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