POETRY MONDAY: February 4, 2018

Kalpana Asok

Namaste, everyone, as you look at this beautiful picture of our February poet, who has been in this country for thirty-one years. Her country of origin was India and her native language Tamil, but her primary language is English. The greeting, as many of you know, is given with the hands pressed together and a small bow, meaning the recognition of the divine in another person.

What better time could there be to recognize the soul in every human being than this, when the world is talking and thinking about immigration and when much of that talk has been less than generous and even hostile? But here, with Kalpana Asok, we have someone who is kind and grateful, as we will see from her poems and the story of her life.

Growing up in India, Kalpana studied for a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology and also English Literature and a second language for two of the three-year program. After moving to the United States, she resumed her study of biology, receiving a Master of Science, and later went on to receive a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. She now works as a psychotherapist in the San Francisco Bay area, where she has had a practice for over twenty years.

This is a first for us – not only the first time we have featured a native of India, but the first we have featured someone who has not yet published any poetry at all. A first collection of her poems, however, is forthcoming from IP Books, probably later this year. Another book, Whose Baby Is It, Anyway? Inside the Indian Heart, is also soon to appear. This, she tells us, is a collection of short essays that speak of the Indian culture in ways particularly relevant to psychotherapists and others who may have occasion to work with and want to know more about how the Indian family system impacts each individual.

Although she hasn’t studied poetry formally, for the past two years she has been part of a weekly writing group conducted by writer Thomas Ogden, working on and sharing her poetry with them. This is similar to the way most poets begin, many continuing long after they have begun to publish.

Both because of the graceful simplicity of her poems and their content, we are proud to present the three poems below by Kalpana Asok.

                                                 –Irene Willis
                                                    Poetry Editor

 

 

Linden Walk

Hello

My name is

Bharat Desai

 

Hello

My name is

Pramod Jain

 

Hello

My name is

Arun Hebbur

 

Hello

My name is

Kishore Seshadri

 

Blue edged

White labels

A foreign way

To say hello

 

The stickers

lined up

stare back

from dresser mirror

impossible to see

 

behind them

even a street

called a Walk

 

Hello,

My name is

Culp uh nah

I am here,

To stay

No one else claimed

&

Swept the sidewalk

 

 

Aunty Ji

A weekend walk

in the Big city

Jaunty

spring in my steps

Happy

in the sunshine

golden

A day of freedom

just exploring

 

“Aunty Ji!”

Outbursts stranger

Quick-flash

of happiness

races across his face

Embarrassment

lasts a second

Wistfulness lingers

in the wave after

 

I slow smile

at his now radiant

“Namaste Ji!”

Take in

the pale

worried woman

at his side

 

My Namaste

my familiar

features

have jolted

out Real

Homesick

Heartsick loss

finding today

unbidden

Happiness

 

 

Hope Died

One brown leather bag

Zipped tight-packed

Other of brown paper

Ready for journey

 

Baby welcome gifts

Some still wrapped

Others washed naked

Hastily folded goodbyes

 

Bushy in the bassinet

Eyes turned in

Soft silky hair aplenty

Find nurses’ sympathy

 

Will she be toddler

In a teenage body

Will the foster

Love her tender

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