Featured Poet: Charu Suri, New York

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Charu Suri lives and writes in New York.
Here are two of her poems, with written commentary
by the poet on how the poems were conceived.


THE BALLET AGON

We watched four men take flight like swans
into a painting made of twirls
and muscle sculpted into dance.

The women entered in reply:
an antiphon of graceful leaps,
a quartet of bare knees and thighs.

Like pliant ropes that braid and knot
the dancers curved and quickly straightened
from positions tense and taut,

Each couple ardent to surpass
the brilliance of the one before,
as though Aristophanes

Had taught his choruses to dance –
their shuttling arguments transformed
to pas de deux and perfect stance.


(forthcoming publication in THE
TEXAS REVIEW)



This poem was conceived after a visit to the Royal Opera House's
performance of Stravinsky's ballet. I was enticed by the various
combinations that four men and women could do in a minimalist
set. The urge to voice the connection between the title (AGON in
Greek means 'contest') developed into a poem.


A MORNING RITUAL

And so every morning, plucked jasmine, heavy incense
and the lighting of copper lamps whetted our appetite
for prayer. A sandalwood fragrance thickened.
Our father spooled muslin wicks that licked up pools of oil,
touched his palms and closed his eyes.

We were young, and could not understand
why we whirred slim incense rods round
the statue of Ganesha. "One must pray everyday,"
he said. Scorched by guilt, we nodded, pledged
our mornings to this act.

She watched us quietly, aloof and busy
with house chores. When the session ceased,
she'd pick her broom up, sweep away the ashes,
steal jasmine from the gods and empty oil from the lamps.
Her bracelets clinked, her broom strokes, brusque
with rhythm, became ritual themselves.

She'd give her final pocket penny to the pan-handlers
who'd come at seasonal intervals, without a fuss.
We often tried to coax her to join us,
but she insisted, "I pray differently."

Previously published in THE SHOp.


My childhood was spent in India. Often I would see how my father's
way of prayer, disciplined and premeditated, was different from the
way our caretaker prayed and performed her duties. The class dif-
ferences existing in the society compelled me to write this poem.







Poems by Charu Suri © 2002. Original graphics by Sally Crawford © 2003.
Page realisation © 2002 Sally Crawford. All rights reserved.