Creation and Criticism

ISSN: 2455-9687  

(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal

Devoted to English Language and Literature)

JAN 2017

Five Poems of Archna Sahni


After living uncertainly between Canada and India, Archna Sahni appears to have settled in India. Archna’s debut collection of poems titled First Fire (Yeti Books: Calicut, 2005) has received the praise of renowned writers such as Vilas Sarang and K. Satchidanandan (nominee for Nobel Prize for Literature 2011). She is the recipient of the inaugural Agha Shahid Ali Prize for Poetry, and received Honorable Mention for E.J. Pratt Medal and Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in the anthologies Ninety-Nine Words: A Collection of Contemporary English Poems (Panchbati Publications, 2006), The Dance of the Peacock: An Anthology of English Poetry from India (Hidden Brook Press, 2013), Suvanrarekha: An Anthology of Women Poets Writing in English (The Poetry Society of India, 2014), and Voices Across The Ocean: Poems From Australia & India (Cyberwit, 2014). Her poems have found a place in the Best of Indian Literature 1957-2007 (Sahitya Akademi, 2012).  She can be contacted through e-mail: archnasahni@gmail.com



1. Because

 

Because we might never meet again,

I will walk

into our fairytale future

and tell our story

to armsful of our grandchildren

at every bedtime.

 

Because we might never touch,

I will be the snake

climbing up my spine

to unite with her lord:

you in my mind.

 

Because you have frozen time –

I will slide down on it

as the light

that will meet the one

that will leave

from between your brows

with your last breath.

 

2. Sap is my Heritage

 

Things that cannot be seen

belong to me

 

Ether of invisibility

takes me closer to you lord –

The gap between the high roof

of your church and I

is the ladder of flame

that lifts the ash

I call my body –

 

I am

what the tree cannot contain

and therefore exudes

Touched by the fragrant air

I harden into being

Slowly dying I am

only a possibility

 

Finally

round and bulbous

and unbreathing

I come to be

 

Sap is my heritage

 

3. Plants Rewrite History

 

Eyeless,

and without a yawn,

we still see the dawn breaking.

Our chlorophyll has never slept

since the earth began.

 

Move over, two-legged man, and see

that we are the first pagans,

raising our arms to the blazing sun,

eating sweet mouthfuls of earth:

our every meal is a prayer is a meal.

 

Have you ever heard

a scratching sound on the pages

in our bark, watched

how the soundless calligraphy

of creepers, verges

onto a word?

 

In your church,

why do you never sing

the mystery of

our bark that is your flesh,

our sap that is your blood –

 

O our kingdom reigns yet

in coal and oil and every seed

and the fossils that lie beneath the sea.

Once we danced upon the earth

but for you we stood still,

became motionless between sky and earth

so that you could move and dream.

While you crowned yourself with thorns,

our toes turned into roots, shuddered, and were still.

 

O sleeping heaving million-eyed beast,

so blind he will never see,

so now we reveal:

 

Prometheus was not a man

but we –

We stole the fire of the sun

shooting it as sap

through our hundred-armed History

into your dazed open mouth:

 

and you suddenly

opened your eyes

and forged a wheel.

 

4. First Fire

 

Mother, for the first

time in twenty years,

I spoke your language

and made it mine.

 

But that was not the only

miracle: do you know it was

at Kalighat that I finally found myself?

I drew closer to you as the chanting rose

and then knew it was not just the hymn

but you, that was older than the earth.

 

We were not two but three women

locked in one embrace: you, I, Kali.

I shrank into Her bleeding toe

and came back to life. My body

that lay scattered in shrines

was suddenly yoked: by longing .

 

I don’t know

who honoured whose rite—

 

All I know is this:

that Mother, you have lived

in me like a child.

 

Now you rise in me

like the earth’s first fire.

 

5. The Last Man

 

That the eyes mostly delude

can be a good thing:

unfocus them and you can

blur the summer burst of colour

near Sukhna lake into a Canadian autumn:

 

this is what I make us

walk into, into a moment

neither past nor present

but close to a goodbye.

 

You lower your mouth

over mine. I am heady with the taste

of the wild berry you have just eaten

(there are no berries near the lake),

 

and weary with the effort

of loving. Your haste declares you

to be a man on your way, and I am

weary with fitting the pieces together

after each parting, of shaming

the spirit into masonry

after the mind’s vagaries and

the body’s lusts have taken their toll.

 

I grow bold in my dreams.

In the dream I had of you,

you were

the last man.

You arrived like a prophet.

You were the prophecy.

Standing on the edge of my world,

you pointed to what behind you:

the blue sky, nothing –

and pronounced, “I am the last man.”

 

I smile feebly recalling the dream,

I smile at the silliness of all dreams,

as I enter the breach

between dream and the real

which is the space

within your arms.

 

And I wonder if you

can tell how much is despair

and how much desire in my eyes

as I pull you down to the grass

and into my dream

as the last frizzled

clot of sunset

tapers into a red eye

that closes over us.