Two Poems

    By Shanta Acharya

    (With acknowledgement to Mahmoud Darwish)

    Those who have no land, no home,
    washed in like debris on a beach, imagine

    not a painted ceiling, just a sky promising
    nothing, not even the company of clouds.

    Those who have no home, no land
    expect no welcoming ceremony, seek refuge

    in exchange for life – dreams sealed in hearts,
    names of loved ones dissolving under the tongue.

    Those who have no land, no home
    have no hope that glimmers, no heaven

    that illuminates – only the freedom
    to die from longing and exile.

    Those who have no home, no land
    tossed between unknowns, transformed

    into stone, continue to believe in miracles,
    trust in suffering to take them home.

    Those who have no land, no home
    know what it means to be effaced –

    shorn of a self, turned into a shadow, tired
    of the fight, fearful of forgetting the way.

    Only the wind listens to our secrets,
    chatters at the edge of shivering coasts.

    How can we thank the wind for revealing
    the truth to the trees, sky and seas –

    a home, a home, a life for a home –
    crying out for those who have no home?


    My journey began with a pair of high-heels –
    the first thing I saw as she stepped out of her Jaguar.

    Slick and poised, the lady called herself Madonna,
    always bought something when she visited my stall.
    Smoking a pipe she would smile, watch me haggle.

    She took me under her wing, spoke of worlds
    beyond my dreams – London, Paris, New York, Berlin.

    I am from a small village with a handful of houses,
    where everybody knows everybody else’s business.

    As children we never had enough, always wanted more.
    Was it so wrong? She gave me gifts – silk stockings,
    shoes, scarves, dresses – made me feel special.

    Father wanted me to marry a decrepit landlord,
    young men these days work and settle abroad.
    Life stretched out like an endless dirt road.

    One night I left, thinking of making a fresh start.
    Some parents give their children roots, others wings.

    How would I know there’d be so many men lusting
    after the same thing every day, never a day of rest?
    The bosses raped us when we slept, even when we bled.

    Men are the worst of all animals. And that woman
    who traded me into a life I wouldn’t curse my enemy
    with, what punishment would be right for her?

    When the police arrested us, I was not worried.
    They sent me to hospital, finally the pain stopped –
    but the tempest in my mind kept raging.

    Abandonment is a deep, dark ocean of hurt –
    none you can trust, none to offer comfort.

    I believed in God, now I don’t know what to believe,
    know how it feels to lose everything.


    ‘To Lose Something’ first appeared in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing (Vol 45, No 2; June 2009) and is from Shanta Acharya’s What Survives Is The Singing (Indigo Dreams Publishing, UK; 2020).

    Shanta Acharya DPhil (Oxon), born in Cuttack, Odisha, won a scholarship to Oxford, where she was awarded a doctoral degree in English. She was a visiting scholar at Harvard University before joining an American investment bank in London. A poet, novelist, scholar and reviewer, her poems have been published internationally. Author of twelve books, her latest poetry collections are What Survives Is The Singing (2020) and Imagine: New and Selected Poems (2017).

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