Rigorous
Volume Five, Issue 1



Shilpa Kamat


Asha

        I know the story of
how they churned
        the ocean of milk
hoping for nectar
            wishing for, wanting
greedy for nectar

          How each side tugged
backing and forthing
          frothing up milky
water for nectar

          I know, I know
you’ve heard this story
          how in the churning
the poison rose first

gray-black and lethal
            invading their lungs

and they
        hoping for, wishing
the poison away
        greedy for a savior

paused as Shiva swallowed it
      as Parvati lovingly strangled
  him, as the halahala turned
        his throat blue

      then kept on churning, wishing
for nectar
                          hoping for, wanting
greedy for nectar

    listing the treasures emerging
in churning: the tree and the horse
        the elephant and cow
   the apsuras who danced
   the goddess of wine

   and Lakshmi herself and
          a crescent moon—

          still, they kept on
wishing for greeding
   churning for nectar

                          churning and churning

      reaching
                          at last
      the bottom
                          where they found
      what they sought

the finding breaking
      the promise of alliance
  as one side bolted with the pot
      as the other schemed

wishing for, wanting
                     greedy for nectar




someone  bestowed the power

                                                        to  recognize
       the knees                of the  greedy
                                                             the ones who
       have no time                 who churn  poisons               and pour
                     them into         the ocean                    the ones who
       pluck                the old growth
                                                                       who lay them flat--
                                                                       but now
                   someone    has             the power
     to recognize                  the  knees of   the   greedy
                   as they pass                               on city  streets
           to  curse                       their creases                        to turn them
   slowly
                                  to    slugs                        to moss
  to worms                           to    brittle stars
                                                                            to turn them
          for a thousand years                to decomposers
             as penance                                  as preservation

and when they  emerge                  redeemed          self-realized
            what eyes  will  remain
to hold




Kali Doesn’t Do Ballet

you don’t see her in first position
jumping daintily amidst demons

no pointing of toes to Shiva’s chest
her foot falls flat and hard

no graceful relevé while
drinking blood of oppressors

no plastered smile
she sweeps them dead

with her fierce tongue



Shilpa Kamat: “I am a writer and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. My work is informed by my intersectional identities, my spiritual journey, my diverse communities, and the natural world. My chapbook, Saraswati Takes Back the Alphabet, was a 2018 finalist for the Gloria E. Anzaldúa Poetry Prize and was published by Newfound in 2019. I have an MFA from Mills College.”




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