Usha Kishore

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the poet

Indian born Usha Kishore is a British poet and translator, resident on the Isle of Man. She is internationally published and has been anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland, Oxford University Press and Harper Collins India. Usha’s poetry is featured in the British school and Indian undergraduate syllabi. Her third and latest poetry collection, Immigrant, was published by Eyewear London in 2018. Usha is currently undertaking a PhD in Postcolonial Poetry with Edinburgh Napier University.

the poems

Postcolonial Poem

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You are the enterprising seafarer,

in search of adventure.

I am the wild orient, waiting

to be discovered.

You cast your imperial net.

I welcome you like a God.

You trade. You invade.

You conquer. You divide.

I bleed in saffron and green. I sing

patriotic songs in mumbo-jumbo.

You exorcise my pagan spirit

with cross and book.

You teach me your language.

I curse in your language.

I unite. I shout slogans.

I subvert. I burn you down.

Your guns thunder down.

I die. But I rise again.

You imprison me. You call me

traitor, in the name of the crown.

I engage in non-violence. I desire truth.

I non co-operate. I fast unto death.

My swelling masses flood you out.

Your sun is set. You saw me in two.

Yet, I rise again. I build nations.

You seek new horizons.

We pretend to ignore each other.

But we need each other.

I dream of the western skies.

You dream of a new empire.

I come. I see. I conquer.

I teach you your language.

Together, we journey through Prospero-land.

My pagan spirit resurrects in mumbo-jumbo.

I people your island with little Calibans.

You hurl abuse. You discriminate.

I resist. You make new laws.

I teach you my language.

You mumble my name

in your colonial tongue.

In-between Space

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The red of the morning contouring itself

on the black of the night, a chiaroscuro dawn,

baring her vermillion bosom to the rising sun.

A night flight between two continents, turning

into light somewhere over brooding desert skies,

where the drifting mind soars on falcon wings.

You have dreamt between distracted archipelagos,

floundering coral reefs and lost peninsulas, hitching

dragon rides in a world of camels and elephants.

You have mapped cultural spaces with crepuscular icons

of demons and demiurges churning immortal serpents

in the misty oceans of the milky way. You have lived

in fear of Jupiter’s thunderbolt and Indra’s vajra, gathering

gemstone legends from the lands you traversed in search

of a dark eternity. You have inherited the scent of jasmine-

flowers, the loss of womanhood hanging on pomegranate-

trees and the fate of the ever wandering khanabadosh.

Lounging on the peacock throne of in-between space,

you sip cloudy twilight from a tall glass and fathom

the sensuous curve of the sky as it meets the sea.

Blinded by the light of the rising sun, you lose time

in a kaleidoscope of bewildered geographies, each

glass bead, flowering as second, minute and hour.

Now, it is landing time - you stretch, fold away

the blanket of sleep, apply your kajal and lip gloss

and tune into the dulcet tones of a language that melts

into turquoise sea and emerald palm fronds.

Indra: Indian equivalent to Jupiter

vajra – Sanskrit for thunderbolt

khanabadosh – Urdu for gypsy

Absent Sky

(Manasarovar)

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Snow dyes the mind, freezing the myth

of time. Passing clouds wax astral batiks

into the fabric of still air, mandalas

and yantras for wandering souls.

Thought translates into blue eternity,

veiling the kneeling earth in immortal hue.

In the paling distance, on a mist-clad

rock dome, jewelled in glacial ice,

a celestial being, wearing the crescent moon

on his forehead, contemplates the world.

Day and night merge into cosmic dreams

as winds gasp between sound and silence.

Rainbow flags flutter in tranquil prayer

and a twilight mantrarises on wings of fire,

as the mind lake meditates on an absent sky.

Manasarovar: translated from Sanskrit as Mind Lake, is a freshwater lake on the Trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau. Resting on the foot of Mount Kailas (Gang Rinpoche), the lake is associated with Indo-Tibetan myths and religious beliefs.

Yantras and mandalas: symbols and diagrams used in Hindu and Buddhist religious art

Publishing credits

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