Monday 5 May 2014

3 Poems by Shanta Acharya :


The highly expected not happening is also a Black Swan.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Look into your own history –
exile from family, friends, country,
betrayed by those you placed your faith in,
always living at the margins.

Yet nothing, yes nothing in your past
pointed to the unfurling of the present.

What has been, what might have been
two fractured landmasses drifting in time
acquiring individual perspectives;
not parallel lines meeting in infinity.

You wander down lanes of lives never lived,
reconciling what might have been with reality.

Is there free will? You ask as you sink
failing to swim against the tide; knowing
only dead fish swim with the stream.

Immense possibilities only appear
to be evenly distributed; not knowing the odds
we take risks, act against the gods.

There is no way of knowing what we don’t know.
No way of protecting us against uncertainty.

We build theories like terracotta armies
fallible guesses from fragmentary information,
success or failure being always retrospective.

Our limitations echo in memory
rearing up in dreams of the seemingly impossible,
our own lives, elegant black swans, in full flight….     

[author's note: in his book, The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to an event with rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective predictability as a Black Swan. According to him, “a small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.”]


Your first breath           a wild peacock-cry
your clear protest at entering our world;

The umbilical cord severed,
nurse confirmed            a perfect daughter.

Happiness overflowed              my milk dried up.
A woman’s life is hard; how am I to protect you?

The curl of your lips, eyebrows all mine,
the sickle cells in our blood       our shared DNA;

Shrine of your immaculate body entrusted in my hands.
This the moment of renunciation,
remembering women in whose footsteps we walk –

Mother             grandmother                 great-grandmother,
linking us all the way back through Time;

Celebrating the journey, memories of places
traveled          together, apart              shared –

Mother, daughter          flowing from glacier
head of soul mountain to a drop in the ocean.
Tree of life        leaves waving in the sun.

You tug me back peering into my eyes,
we contemplate each other        ancient enemies, best friends.

I barely blinked, yet fifty years have flown.
No need to explain the chain is now broken.

You have so much to give! You stand there alone
free, ready for flight, not frozen in fear,
trapped in relationships.


What times are these that darken our horizon,
blur our view of what it means to be human?

What tides are these whose
rising waters of me keep drowning us?

What kind of people advertising
alchemy turn gold to lead and nectar to poison?

What future do we create for our children
if hope, justice, beauty and truth are forgotten?

To see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing,
do nothing turns you into a good-for-nothing.

Ignorance is not easily overcome,
though it rises to the surface like scum.

What times are these where each action
is a transaction?

People, nations, nature – the universe
is in a state of flux redefining us.

Those who believe know how to dream,
keep faith in things unseen.

The quality of darkness is how it lets us see.


Shanta Acharya was born in India; she won a scholarship to Oxford, where she completed her doctoral thesis in English before going to Harvard as a Visiting Scholar. Her study, The Influence of Indian Thought on Ralph Waldo Emerson, was published in the USA in 2001. The author of nine books, her latest poetry collection is Dreams That Spell The Light (Arc Publications, UK; 2010). Her poems, articles and reviews have appeared in major publications in the UK, USA, and India. She is the founder director of Poetry in the House, Lauderdale House in London, where she has been hosting monthly poetry events since 1996. She was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Poetry Society, UK, in 2011.  SHANTA ACHARYA <>

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