Gift of Grief

Tarang Press, 2005 and 2019/Reprint

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GIFT of GRIEF is a series of thematically linked love poems addressed to the author’s former husband who took his life. The 31 connected poems are a dialogue between a woman and her ghost husband. It is the inner journey of a survivor of suicide whose process of grief turns from a suicidal sorrow, guilt, and suffering, to a resurgence and celebration of life. Kapur’s brutal honesty throughout the poems and a prose epilogue gives the reader an insight into the hidden springs of human nature, and makes this book of poems a powerful and moving experience. “The grief of his loss was an opportunity for self-transformation and the poems were my journey through death, back to a new perception and experience of life,” says Kapur.

It was previously published in 2005 as As A Fountain In A Garden and received critical acclaim.

Shall I open it?I don’t have the key.
Neither did you. But you
devised one:a gunblasted it open
with a bulletand walked through.You were weary of the knocking in the night,
weary of the knocking in the day,
weary of the knocking at all hours.You heard it, not as I hear it,
as a muffled, muted sound
barely audible
but the imperative knock
you couldn’t ignore.Even as we ate you heard it,
your ear cocked to the sound
like a shell on a dusted, glass shelf,
straining for the sounds of the sea.I feared the knocking.
You feared it, too,
but in the heart of your fear
was desire
to go
word.But I,
content (for the most part)
tethered to you, home
garden, job,
word, skin, flesh,
boundary, rhythm
presumed you were, too.But you,
you flung
open the door, you,
walked into the embrace
of the dark lady at the doorour lady of sorrow
and exultationand left me
with this
absence, this gift
of grief.


As a Fountain in a Garden Gift? Did I say, gift?

Let it stand.

The word

as a fountain
in a garden

– a burst in air –

The word

thousand petaled
blue lotus
from Vishnu’s navel
as he sleeps
on the churning, burning
sea, serene
of birth, life, death,
and dreams

the world:

Gift, let it be.


Black Flowers of Knowing
My eyeballs
saw your end:

your body,
– meat mask –
limp upon the tree

testes cerebri
ejaculated knowledge
into my brain
that now instead of presence
puts memories in my begging bowl.

Brain is the begging bowl, white
skull full of hungers,
this knowing
beyond doubt:

you are nowhere.

Even in deluding dream, you
elude, melt away to cloud, to

air. You,

who swore you’d never leave me
are now between the satin thighs
(there is no getting away from image.
Even air has body, then, beloved)
of the dark lady
who called to you
even as you lay in our bed.

Even as your mouth was upon mine,
her tongue was in your ear.

It was a silent tongue
loud with its promises of an unambivalent love,
of a land without shadows,
of something more total and unquestionable
than flesh could offer.

You followed her, you son of a bitch,
the dark lady made of air
was more real to you
than me, more real
than the meals I cooked for you,
more real than taste and touch and sound.

This, then, is where this
poem, word, air
has brought me:

the imagined is
more actual
than the real.

So, too, for me,
– as for you the dark lady–
you are, now
in your absence, more real
than all the senses of this
sighted, blind world.

“This book of poems signals the arrival of a serious poetical voice of our times.”

The Deccan Herald

“… a vivid collage of feelings – smooth, intense, personal . . . . Amidst misfortune, Kapur discovers the invincible human spirit.”


“Kamla Kapur, through her poems, gives a glimpse into the power and anguish that a suicide can cause in a person’s life. It is a work filled with wisdom and the ability to transform a tragic experience into art.”


“Seldom is there a unity of thought, action, and emotion as found in these poems. All who read these poems will see a book of extreme honesty and intensity. This book contains the stirrings of a soul staring into the eyes death with all its potency.
These poems plunge into the reality of death and allow it to devour us and see what happens. This is poetry of remarkable fearlessness and integrity towards life. The motifs of these poems are self-perpetuating within the gravity of life and take us through the entire gamut of experience. I wish this poet a long path of glory and acceptance.”

Jai Kumar, Secretary of Culture

“Like her earlier book, Rahda Sings, these poems have a fearless and sensuous quality. Absence is made a presence through the language of poetry taking language where it has not been before. I do not remember ever reading poetry which dares to go where most poets have feared to go. This book creates poetry that is so stirring, so magnificent in its nobility and yet so sensuous in its presence.”

Ashok Vijpayee ,well-known Indian poet


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