Of in-law daughters and mothers; Prayer; Humdrum of my fabric
By: Anita Nahal
Of in-law daughters and mothers
And so Draupadi’s bridal sari was ensconced in a monsoon drizzle of wishful sequins that came
sauntering carrying whispers of celebrations and warnings. Her hand held her sari pallu high like
a flag of defiance. Bedazzles of a neoteric doomed marriage could be heard in the vicinity of the
cloaked moon and human eyes were seen grandiose and lowered resting on human head tops.
Draupadi’s strides irreverential to the glass of norms and respect her mother-in-law gave her. “
Drink it up, it's hot outside, and you have to satisfy all five of my sons.” The glass fell, rolled off
into a painting a non-ally was drawing. Inside the canvas nail splinters became flying feathers,
searching for their throbs gone too soon. Colored strokes became rivers and canals and veins and
arteries. Parts of the brain seemed missing or heralding a different era. Draupadi’s amusement
and caution were seen shaking hands, clumsily, fearfully, rebelliously. Water lay in comatose
watching from inside a pottery urn sitting cross legged inside Draupadi’s esophagus. Cold.
Undrunk. Unfelt. Unquenched thirst like the unseen itch of ageless conifer trees, like the
hallowed belching of rainbowed sun laved skies, like the hysterical land beneath a fatigued dam
of quicksand. Draupadi was fine gold dust out the time glass. There was no going back and
henceforth when she spoke, her body slid through sandglass’s tapered waist reappearing as
disillusioned morsels of scalding boiled rice which she trundled the same for everyone.
Draupadi: Heroine of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata
Pallu: End of the Indian attire, Sari
This poem was inspired by a painting by Melbourne, Australia based poet, painter and sculptor,
Elizabeth 'Lish' Škec
It's dawn, and I’ve washed, brushed, and lit some incense to commence the day. Hands enjoined
in Namaste close to my heart. That is where I must continue to seek. In the channels of
conversations threading my conscience. The threads are of pure silk betokening a possibility and
a promise of not severing easily. Inside I start the day with some yoga and outside, garbage
trucks collect people’s daily landfills for fabricating reclaimed land. Planet has more water, less
land, more population, less civility. And then we sleep on some of that very reclaimed land.
Sometimes it opens its huge mouth and swallows us whole. Sinking chasms don’t bother for life.
Yes, we sleep on reclaimed land. And I also sleep on my reclaimed heart after you pound it flat
like a thick piece of meat to cook it better for your taste. Yes, I live in my reclaimed heart as its
still throbbing, composed, pacific, clean, and still mine. I took the thick piece of meat out the
skillet and dipped it in a bowl of Ganga water and gave it life again. The garbage trucks have
left. Little of the foul stench of our messiness trails behind. Sometimes a whiff tries to force itself
through open doors and windows. I have trained to breathe in deep Pranayama and let out in a
hush gently urging stinking whiffs out. As my yoga concludes, I bow in Namaste over the
incense smoke dancing in the kitchen shadows and urge some blessings towards to life.
Namaste: Traditional way of greeting in India
Ganga: Considered the holiest of rivers in India
Pranayama: Deep breathing exercises
This poem was inspired by a painting by Mumbai, India based painter and poet, Madhumita Sinha
Humdrum of my fabric
Fabric. Material. Cloth. By which name would you want to call me? After chores are done, I
mingle with other women in the courtyard. It’s an ordinary day as most days need to be. Just a
baby blue sky, light, soporific breeze, a no-nonsense stone-mud house. The women feel my style
and swoon over the colors I am washed in or the way I have motifs etched over my body and
spine. Then they weave me into a kaleidoscope of wondrous contours and senses for humans to
wrap themselves. Sometimes, a man complains of an uninterested lover and the women patch in
me variants of green. Sometimes a woman reveals a diaphanous face of joy ruminating over a
love-night, and I’m laced in hues of pinks and reds spilling between dots of purple. Sometimes
the weavers’ men walk across into the inner rooms giving them lustful glances and a few
splashes of black and turquoise are intertwined as rejections at the sex their men seem to want.
The elderly women sitting under the shade of a Baobab, serving the humdrum crisscrossing upon
wisdom and maturity too.
Baobab: Baobabs are long-lived deciduous, small to large trees with broad trunks and compact crowns and native to Madagascar, Africa, and Australia.
This poem was inspired by South Carolina, USA based visual and mixed media artist and professor, Michael Harris
Anita Nahal is an Indian American poet, flash fictionist, children’s writer and columnist. Anita has two books of poetry, one of flash fictions, four for children and three edited anthologies to her credit. Her third book of poetry, What’s wrong with us Kali women, is due for release by Kelsay Books in August 2021. Two of her books are prescribed in a course on multiculturalism and immigration at the University of the Utrecht, The Netherlands. Anita teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Anita is the daughter of Sahitya Akademi award winning Indian novelist, Chaman Nahal and educationist, Sudarshna Nahal. Anita resides in the US with her son, daughter in law and golden doodle. More on her at: https://anitanahal.wixsite.com/anitanahal
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
Anita Nahal: Hello!
I am absolutely delighted to be published by Cathexis Northwest Press and to be interviewed by you as well! Thank you so much!
So, I’ve been writing since I was about age 9. Many decades ☺ The environment at home was very conducive to reading and writing. My father was a professor and a novelist, and my mom was principal of a K-12 school. Plus, I have always been passionate and deep about injustices and unfairness in life around me that I think I felt a great urge to express very early in life, questioning why things happen the way they do, and why people act or react the way they do which might hurt, demean, undercut, or embarrass someone.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Oh, wow…well, I don’t think I remember the first poem! My father had this literary process going on for my sister and I on a weekly basis. Such as learning two new words each day and memorizing one poem per week and reciting it out loud. I used to love the process of finding poems and memorizing them to recite. I pushed myself to not make an error! I think since I felt so passionately about life, and what was happening in the world around me or at home, that I started to express through poetry. So, I fell in love with the innate desire to pour it out!
Over time, some poems have just stayed with me, like Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”, Emily Dickinson’s “I’m nobody! Who are you?”, Laini Mataka’s “Being a Strong black Women Can Get U Killed”, and “Dreams” by Langstone Hughes.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
I cant say I have a favorite poet or poets as life is my greatest teacher. My family, friends, my son are those from whom I learn the most. Still, in terms of poets, I really appreciate poems by Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Phillis Wheatley, Laini Mataka, Amanda Gorman, Langston Hughes, and also poetry by Robert Frost, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and Shakespeare, plus writings by poets I know on FB. Also, some of my favorite writers are those who are not necessarily poets. Sometimes a word, a thought expressed, or a philosophy enunciated impacts me and I end up employing it in my poetry. Folks such as W.E.B. DuBois, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, President Obama, Michele Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and so forth. Also, books such the Alchemist, Sex and the City, The Diary of Anne Frank, What is History, and Azadi by Chaman Nahal are some of my beloved. Frost’s woods, Tennyson’s marching orders, Shakespeare’s twists of life in his tragedies leading to a comedy of errors and, furthermore, movies and television series also influence my writings.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
Oh yes, I do have some rituals. Most importantly, we need to take out time each day to write. Even if no words come out, we must sit down to write. As my novelist and professor dad, Chaman Nahal used to say, “we must respect the process.” So, I sit down to write every day, either very early in the morning or late at night. I am basically a night owl.
Sometimes a poem can come to me within a few minutes and doesn’t require many revisions. Sometimes, it can take a couple of days or more. And in between, it can be quite frustrating because I have the ideas, thoughts, and emotions, however, am not able to express them well in a poetic fashion. I tend to leave unfinished poems for a few days and then come back to them and try again.
Sometimes even after I write poems that I think are very good…and that is critical…if I don’t fall in love with my own poetry who will…still, I revise them even later after these are published. For me to improve upon my poetic craft is very necessary for me to grow as a poet and love what I write.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
You know, for me it’s the flow of time that has determined the style in which I chose to write. My first book, Initiations (1988) had mostly shorter poems in free verse. Maybe I was in a hurry to say something. My second book, Hey, Split Milk Is Spilt, Nothing Else (2018), had mostly longer free verse, and very few shorter poems, a couple of haikus and some prose poems. Perhaps at that time I wanted to express in a plethora of forms? And my third book that’s just been released by Kelsay Books is entirely composed of prose poetry. Perhaps I had a lot to say in a different form wherein I could let the poetry spill on the pages like a soliloquy? I am currently writing my fourth book which has all ekphrastic prose poetry and many are surrealist. Perhaps the current time is urging me to find a connection with visuals and the challenge of COVID19 might be compelling me to seek a fresh reality in my poetry, therefore the surrealist expression? The intriguing thing is that these days when I try to write free verse or shorter poems, I’m not able to do so. The only other poetry I can write well enough these days is rhyme poetry.
I am sharing here something I wrote for a question in another interview about what kind of literary resources I employ in my poetry, and I thought it might be worthwhile to mention here as well. I often include imagery, paradox, metaphors, motifs, repetition, satire, soliloquy, personification, symbolism, similes, allusion, Socratic questioning, flashbacks, dream sequences, and foreshadowing when writing poetry. While others are not consciously placed into my poems, I might consciously employ, tautology…repetition of words and phrases to emphasize something. And in prose poetry that is quite the norm, as in spoken word. I also tend to seek sources from history and employ epics, structural designs, timelines and analyzing leaders and their actions to express, stress, symbolize or compare something. (Sagar Sharma, )
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Keep writing regardless of how many poems get published or not, or books rejected, because if you remain dedicated at your craft and passionate for simply the joy of writing poetry, one day you might just see the silver lining smiling down upon you from the greyest of clouds. Believe in yourself, even if naysayers don’t leave you alone.
I wake up each morning and after prayers and washing up, my thought is, when will I start writing? If something like that drives you, then please keep writing.
Also, try following some basic improvement tips:
* Read and re read and re read your poems and try your best to improve the grammar, and the way you express yourself poetically
* Try to reduce the number of words in a sentence/stanza if you can
*Try to see if you can say the same thing in a new way
* Try to use a thesaurus so you don’t end up using the same adjectives
* Read your poems out aloud for that would come handy in the editing process as well. When you hear yourself, it’s easier to notice the errors.
* If you are keen to see your poems published, keep searching for journals where your poetry might fit and send, send, and send
* When you think you have sufficient for a book, take the effort to compile all your poems in a book draft and send, send and send to publishers
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Oh, wow… the moment I fall in love with it…reasonably…I mean I can go back and try to improve upon it and love it even more! However, when the flow seems right, when the words are just about fit, and I know that any more would be too much, that’s when I reasonably feel, its done!