LAUREL LEAVES POETRY


Monthly Poetry Magazine



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POET AND POEMS OF THE MONTH

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JANUARY 2016

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MS. SHANTA ACHARYA

Shanta Acharya was born in Cuttack, in the eastern state of Orissa, India. She completed her Master of Arts in English with distinction from Ravenshaw College, and won a scholarship to Oxford where she was among the first batch of women admitted to Worcester College in 1979. Between 1983-5 she was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University.


The author of ten books, her New & Selected Poems will be published in 2016. Her poems, articles and reviews have appeared in major publications worldwide including Poetry Review, London Magazine, The Spectator, Guardian Poem of the Week, Edinburgh Review, Oxford Today, PN Review, The Warwick Review, Agenda, The Little Magazine, The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, India International Centre Quarterly, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Cimarron Review, Fulcrum, Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia & Beyond. She is the founder director of Poetry in the House, Lauderdale House in London, where she has been hosting monthly poetry readings since 1996. She has served on the board of trustees of several philanthropic organizations. www.shantaacharya.com.

 

SELECTED POEMS

 

After Great Struggle

 

After great struggle

descends

an alternative calm.

 

The mind’s swirling sky

now emptied of its thoughts in snowstorm.

 

Wrapped up like Trappist monks

the trees preserve an immaculate silence.

 

The cold wind shakes

this proud stillness

 

Into crumbling flakes,

mercilessly

smiling at the helpless struggle

 

To keep up appearances at all costs.

 

Strange faces

sheathed

move in these streets

 

Wanting a more direct relation with the sun.

 

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What You Don’t Know

 

As a child you instinctively know

that there are things you don’t know;

you also know that you know of things

that the adults think you don’t know.

 

Growing up is a process of knowing,

of knowing that you don’t know;

acknowledging that others might know,

though they don’t know that you don’t know.

 

Wisdom comes when you can forget what you know,

when you know that parents, friends, lovers, well-wishers,

even your enemies, your best teachers, don’t know;

for what is worth knowing is what you don’t know.

 

Some people are born plain lucky;

they sail through life without knowing

that they don’t know, and not knowing

they don’t know what is worth knowing

protects them from a lifetime of unknowing.

 

For most of us there is a price to be paid,

most of us get damaged, more or less, in the process

and end up knowing what is not worth knowing.

 

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Shunya

 

It took centuries

the journey from cipher,

invisible wedge, thing of no importance

to zero, point of reckoning –

 

piece of the unknown fathomed,

being counted, standing solidly

three dimensional, banishing mystery

altering lives forever;

establishing one’s significance

in space, time, trade, science,

lending the world order;

measuring phenomena,

not just the freezing point of water;

creating certainty,

holding things together.

 

Shunya, vessel taking the shape

of whatever is poured into it,

godlike, containing everything and nothing –

pregnant with possibility,

poised between positive, negative,

life and death;

vanishing point, knowing infinity,

drawing down divinity;

reflecting sum of the universe,

reducing all to Itself, always transforming…

 

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All You Can Do

 

Here’s your thunder stolen by others,

your losses, ships that never return.

 

Here’s your life passing slowly by,

your body of song promising all it can do.

 

Here’s your heart reaching out to others,

your thoughts fresh rays of sun.

 

Here’s your dream scattered across the sky,

falling stars not knowing what they can do.

 

Here’s hope, gold at the edge of the rainbow

casting a spell on us as we go.

 

Here’s your fear walking in front of you

thinking there is nothing you can do.

 

Here’s my hand, place yours in mine,

I’ll show you the world is yours.

 

Here’s your true love waiting for you,

your tree of life, radiant in bloom.

 

Here’s what you do, what you can do,

it’s your future, make of it what you will –

 

Here’s life in all its squalor and splendor,

here’s your world and all you can do.

 

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The Scream

 

Walking down the hill in the mystic light of autumn

surrounded by nature’s vast and ageless kingdom,

in thrall to the city’s sprawl stretching to the skyline,

I heard a sound, a voice primeval, half-human,

a cry of compassion, a song of survival,

music of the universe, mirror reflecting the soul.

The sun was setting in an ocean of blood, the crimson

horizon heaving. Clouds, birds, trees, all nature

hummed in unison as a scream ran through creation –

an orgasmic gasp, a howl of inexplicable origin,

like silence before the beginning of consciousness.

Time’s scroll of suffering unfurled in a chorus of pain

rising to a crescendo – centuries of prayers for justice.

Darkness descended, the scream sighed: I am existence.

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