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Radha Sings

Tarang Press, Revised Reprint, 2019

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RADHA SINGS is a lyrical, narrative and dramatic series of erotic love poems from the feministic perspective of Radha, the female counterpart of the archetypical love couple of Indian mythology, Radha and Krishna. The Radha in these poems is an empowered modern woman unabashedly in touch with her own sexual, emotional and spiritual needs. Spiritually is but a continuum of her carnality. These poems move from the shifting complexity and range of modern romantic love, its ecstasies and conflicts, highs and lows, to a love of the divine. Through suffering and separation, Radha undergoes the highest transformation: becoming the object that she worships, a marriage that obliterates the distinction between subject and object.

An updated version of RADHA published by Rolling Drum Press & Dark Child Press (1987) with experimental photos of the famous Indian Khajuraho Temples by Payson R. Stevens.


Desire

With one garland of marigold
I roam
looking for Krishna

and behold, miracle of bounty!
I see him in every face

in the market place
I become woman
with a thousand eyes
a thousand hearts

and stand still
paralyzed by so much profusion
terrified at my desire
~

It’s Just That I

It’s not that I
like wearing flowers
in my hair

nor these jewels for ear
finger hand throat ankle

(I know myself
to be beautiful
when naked)

It’s just that I like
you to linger
removing these
~
I Have Told All

announced our love
to the whole neighborhood
the housewives have sniggered and sighed but you
you have lied, pretended, become angry
with me for telling all

which fool writing the history of our love
made you such a lover?
~
People Have Gossiped, You Know

said things that turned
my heart to stone

‘‘Oh that Krishna
is now tasting that
grey haired man’s daughter!’’

I have turned away in anger
that I should be no more to you
than a moment’s delight

refused to hear your flute
shut the door in your face

yet when you have gone
run through forests of asphalt, smog
traffic, looking for you

admitting in my longing
how sweet you are
to my tongue too
~

Look Here

if you touch my hunger
touch that sore
where dreams are congealed

then stay
forever and a day
in the room without a door

if you crack my shell
with the hammer of your gaze
shelter my meat
in the castle of your heart

devour
live bone close
blood near

but if the moon
will not let you
as it will not me

then, ah then

safe no more
we’ll learn
with broken wings
to plough the vaster space

~
So, You Are Gone Again
didn’t leave an address, you never
stay in one place long
nor know which wind will carry you where
nor to whom

you think of me
do you? as in the past
drooping in separation season
a lotus without water
a garden without an eye

imagine me
can you? naked as before
a mirror touching my breasts
noticing in pain the vanishing
marks of our love

sigh for me for
pity, is it? Now
envy me the intensity that
you have lost playing too much
the game of love with too many

well, then it’s just as well
you didn’t leave an address
or you would surely hear from me
now since you have gone
how good it is to be alone.
~
The Message Was Mine
why Krishna why
when the bees where out
sucking long and deep
had you made me ashamed of my desire ?

The shame was all yours
I hadn`t even paused to think
and when you went away

(it always seems, forever)
what could I do what could I
do with so much aching
intensity you feared away from
the earth the earth was all in me

so when the rains came I gave
freely, without expectation

admit then the message you gave the world
to give, live without measuring
you learnt from me
~
All These years I was Silent
left my tongue in your mouth
when you Kissed me and went away
Sang only when you were there

too much waiting
made a stone of the heart
I had to find thing to go
while you were away
I did not want to die

(that love for which we
lived died
centuries ago was it ?)

so I found other eyes, thighs
other flesh held
death away a while

sought diversions so

and learnt to sing while I wait
~
Hooked
you, who sang of freedom
from attachment, of standing above
the wheel, when you returned, the battle over
(not because one side won, the other lost, but both
wearied of the unending

indestructability of each)

you on not finding me beneath our tree
broke your flute, and wept

no philosophy came to your rescue
the pain refused to become song
and you, Lord of the Wind, Weaver of Illusion
were caught, caught
in a net so fine confounded
that in the raw flesh throb
you liked this bondage so !
~
Mess

when you are away

I keep my house clean

dust a lot, sweep straighten shelve

you come unannounced
a sudden storm

disorder spill scatter
but ah,
I love the mess
your coming makes
~
Yes Yes I Care

when you are not here
miss you melt and lust to be
blood under your skin enter
your brain possess
every thought participate
in every dream

but now I wish
you would just let me
turn over and sleep
~

Plonk In The Middle of

thoroughfares cars honking
in traffic jams heat and smoke
the thought of you stirs
some root unseasonably thrusts
its stem out of my
nipples and flowers
~
Gift

Shall I open it?

I don’t have the key.
Neither did you. But you
devised one:

a gun

blasted it open
with a bullet

and 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
beyond
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 door

our lady of sorrow
and exultation

and left me
here,
with this
absence, this gift
of grief.

*

As a Fountain in a Garden

Gift? Did I say, gift?

Let it stand.

The word
remains

as a fountain
in a garden

– a burst in air –

The word
remains

thousand petaled
blue lotus
sprung
from Vishnu’s navel
as he sleeps
on the churning, burning
sea, serene
unmindful
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.

*

Stone Song # 1

I stole two baskets full of
stone
in dream last night.

Though it seemed a terrible crime
– the owners treasuring them
as the richest gems
and guarding them fiercely
with dragons and bayoneted men –
there was something compelling in those stones
I had to have.

I loaded them into the junky
get-away jeep
and got away
from the rain of fire
and the flailing, scaly, horny tails
without much hurry, trustingly,
in the stride of things.

In the safety of my home
some of the stones looked like ivory,
like ribs, like bone
and some like the kind we found,
you and I,
walking south on Torrey Pines Beach,

flat, and oval cobbles
shining, laved by the tide,
like hematite
heart stone, bloodstone.

We brought them into our garden
and you arranged them into a mock river
flowing out of Saint Francis’ feet
where he stands, cast in stone,
among the rocks in our cactus garden,
gazing up at the sky,
his left hand cupping a tiny bird,
his right hand upon his heart.

Heart. Perhaps the dream
has something to do with the heart.

And how it needs
stone, a rib cage of bone,
to sing its bleeding song.

*

The Lesson

There was something very dense about her,
thick and big, without curves, like a column
in blue jeans and blonde hair.

Even her walk was ponderous,
as if she were a tree, walking
lumberingly, dragging
with each step its baggage
of roots, soil, gravity.

“Blow the notes with power!”
She said, reaching for my flute
where I still gripped it tightly
in my hands, beneath my lips.

“And hold it lightly.
Here. You take it away from me as I play.”

She played, and her strong, delicate
notes floated in the air
like bubbles we once saw a child
blowing at the beach –
rainbow bubbles reflecting the world
and me and you in it.

Her blue eyes reminding me
of my assignment, I reached for the flute.
It fell into my hand as if it were a fruit,
ripe and ready.

I have tried, since, beloved,
to accept
this house, this garden,
you, your life, your death,
my life, my sorrows, my joys,
all, in fact, as gifts

to play with
not possess.

*

 

The Stage Door in a Garden

 

In a garden in Manali
on the banks of the
bounding Jamuna,
I saw a door, darling,
where the wandering actors
had abandoned it,
standing on the grass
wall-less, flanked by air.

It was ornate,
painted, I think,
to look like the iron gate
of unrelenting authority.

I tried the knob, and it was
locked, of course.

I stood before it
a long time, my mind
quaffing in the symbol,
as if it were amrit
served in a skull
by Shiva, Nataraja,
Lord of Actors,
Master of Magic,

whose naked sages,
smeared with ashes,
laugh wildly as they dance
gliding in and
out of the dark wings.

Such, dearest, I now believe
is the door in my dreams
before which I so ponderously pause,

a stage door, an illusion
of exits and entrances.

Perhaps now
in the shadow of your
bright death,
I too could live
with Shiva’s mendicant actors
whose treasures are
not nuggets of gold
but knowing

something deathless
and more bright,
like coruscating reflections
on boulders
of rivers that return
endlessly.


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