Fraser Valley Poets Society

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Surjeet Kalsey

Voiceless Women

(This poem was read at the Festival of South Asian Literature on 26 Sept. 2009 in Toronto in the opening session of the conference, and on 7 September 2010 at Blue Moon Reading Series in Abbotsford.)

Yes, they are still sitting there
quietly waiting for someone
someone will come
and inscribe their fate
on their foreheads
or a stream of passion
would sprung up from within
or a straw would become a pen.

Women are sitting in the house
as if they are stitting on the street
without its floor without its door
but walls are still their retreat

Voiceless women live in this house
within these four walls
without its door, without its floor
quietly they wait for someone
would come and spread out
earth under their feet.

The tale they wanted to tell
that has become aged, stopped.
The tale is circling within circle
from ages and their voice is not heard
their eyes are lit like lamps
on their wrinkled faces – waiting
waiting and waiting someone will come.
Their story is being written in their wrinkles
they will bury their story with their bodies
or a straw would become a pen
it would write their tale on the soil.
or would they remain voiceless even in this age!

Copyright © 2009 from In This Solitude by Surjeet Kalsey. Used with permission

AHALIYA STOOD THERE IN SAARI

(This poem was read at the Festival of South Asian Literature on 26 Sept. 2009 in Toronto in the opening session of the Conference, and on 7 September 2010 at Blue Moon Reading Series in Abbotsford.)

Ages ago
in one star-studded night
Ahaliya, a beautiful woman
wearing a gorgeous silken saari
studded with golden flowers
and embroider with
silk and silver threads
was standing in the doorway
waiting for her crown, Gautam.

Ahaliya, a statue
wrapping around her body
the saari of honour
stood there from ages
in the doorway
waiting for Rama.
Rama would come
with his single touch of his toe
revive the stone statue
and break the spell of
the curse of an angry hermit
who turned her to a stone.

She did not know
in the star-studded night
the full-moon, Chandrma
in the guise of Gautam
came down and land
on to her star-studded saari.
Her innocence was broken.
Chandrma, the moon
has cheated her
to take out his revenge
against Gautam.
The tradition of the time
punished only Ahaliya.
Her pure chaste body
was cursed to become a stone.
Another page was added
in the traditional history of
woman’s sufferings.

The night is spread out
in the vast sky as if
a star-studded black sari.
The newly born moon blooms
and shines in this starry night.
A day old moon
is like a silver scythe
or a sparkling bracelet
or golden border of the saari
spread out on to the sky.
The end of the saari is furling
in the fragrant wind
whispering in the ears
heavenly melody of love.

The moon
grows a bit each night
and circling around its journey
it becomes full in the fortnight.
Then in the moon-lit night
the full-moon wearing
all the glittering armors
shines over each and every roof-top.

The moon peeps through the slits
of the windows and doors
as if the silver rays shinning
And sometimes it lands
in the courtyard and smiles
seeing a woman waiting
clad in silken saari
embroidered with golden threads
and studded with silver stars.
The moon can land in the lap of
any shinning scarf-end of the saari.
The guileful moon is crafty.
Innocence is the name of Ahaliya.
Any Gautam can become Chandrma.

Copyright © 2009 from In This Solitude by Surjeet Kalsey. Used with permission

A Colour Of Nothingness

(This poem was read at the Festival of South Asian Literature on 26 Sept. 2009 in Toronto in the opening session of the conference, and on 7 September 2010 at Blue Moon Reading Series in Abbotsford.)

A blank colourless page
without any word written on it
a colour of nothingness!
Blank untouched colourless
but it contains
the colour of my existence
the colour of my words
the colour of my intellect
the colour of my spirit
the colour of my flesh
the colour of my consciousness
the colour of my being
living among indifferent shadows
all these seven colours are lost.

The shinning silver threads
of the flowing fountains
of my thoughts
the drops of my tears
are pure and transparent
the colour of truth of my soul.
The void is all over out there
the feeling of deceit
is the colour of death.
The colour of devalued life –
In the company of the dark
unappreciative souls
all colours become
the colour of nothingness!

Copyright © 2009 from In This Solitude by Surjeet Kalsey. Used with permission

SELECTION

(Read at Blue Moon Reading Series in Abbotsford on7 September 2010.)
I look into the mirror
a history shrieks at my back
I carry the ruins of the civilization.
I look into my eyes: the life walking dead
through me and someone telling me:
	 you shouldn’t be
			     shouldn’t be alive.
This is a night before,
this is a moment before
I allowed myself to scrape out
my unformed unborn shreds of body.
The devil of tradition takes over and hovers
upon the very existence of a pregnant woman
and keeps on demanding of male air.
As if hers is the gene that determines sex.

History laughs.
Nothing has changed
between now and then
from the ancient midwife’s making
the baby girl sucks her poisonous thumb
at her birth, to see her unborn body through
the ultrasounds and wash her out.
Difference?
Only it looks more accurate, more sure,
professional, and six months time saver.

After I opened my eyes
for the very first time
I see the day light.
I was alive, pulsating,  and crying.
Only after sucking on
the poisonous thumb
of the midwife the life –giver
I was declared a dead-born.

Son-selection labs,
testing  and selecting
the sex of a child: boy or girl ?
To declare a female fetus
as sub-human demon
and take away her right to be born.

Traditionally backward parents
find a relief in aborting
their female air,
and get privileged to try it again
until they get it ‘right’.
What is ‘Right’? Girl or Boy?
What sex-selection means?
Man hates woman or
woman hates woman?
Or both loathe the woman’s body,
the sacred womb that holds and
gives birth to both male and female.
Copyright © 2009 from In This Solitude by Surjeet Kalsey. Used with permission

SAFFRON LEAVES

Saffron is the colour of the leaves
	         of my replanted roots.
I carried my roots on my shoulders
and crossed the green black waters.
I entered a strange land
dotted with maple and oak trees.

Where ever I set my foot
there grew an autumn.
As I set my eyes on
the multicolored grace
of the leaves turning
                    green to yellow
	          yellow to orange red,
                   red-orange to brown:
leaves, falling leaves,
dancing with the breeze
leave their boughs
began to fall on the ground.

I planted my roots in the soil
covered with maple leaves,
watered with my color of blood,
my being, my culture, my food
my dress, the exotic ethnicity,
my accent and my translation.

It bore multicolored flowers:
race-relations and diversity.
The imaginary fruits do not
mix well to become jelly
in the melting pot,
and their non-adjusting
identity gets stung by
an insect called racism
has multicoloured wings
covered under the velvet of
           race-relation and diversity.
The colour of leaves is saffron forever
                      of the replanted roots.
Copyright © 2009 from In This Solitude by Surjeet Kalsey. Used with permission

Surjeet Kalsey

Poet and short story writer Surjeet Kalsey was born in Punjab, India. She has Master’s degrees in English and Punjab, has edited an anthology of Modern Punjabi Poetry and has been published in numerous magazines. She has published several volumes of poetry. Read more of her writings on her blog.

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