Menka Shivdasani – WE Eunice de Souza Poetry Award ’20 (English)

Tea Party

When you and I were about to break
there was no question of a fight
over who would take the cups
and who the saucers.

You spilled over with steam,
meniscus rippling with the slightest
touch; I, supine on the floor,
licked the milk once meant 
for you. Both of us
were china at that point.

One of us had been to China too,
known the meaning of porcelain freedoms,
sniffed red guards. One of us
had known the sound of an alien tongue,
harsh and guttural as it came
from smiling mouths.

Our smiles were circular, yours and mine,
yours from the top of the tea
and mine below—two halves joined
together on separate rims. When we blew
at each other, the crockery
stayed firm, and who but you
and I would know the liquid moved?

No, there was no fight
over chipped white glass.
The pieces lay upon the kitchen floor.

And I—I've moved to tea parties
in other living rooms, balancing
alien porcelain on a frigid palm.

The Whole Deal

It takes much to be empowered:
you must feel the lava
spewing from your breath,
rising from the volcano
that hisses near your intestine,
spilling over to turn the rivers red.

It takes much to be empowered:
to feel whole when 
bits of breast and ovary
lie in plastic bags,
dissected into bland reports
that tell the world you’re well.
It takes much to know the burning coal 
that lay inside of you 
is now a charred and empty space
and the river is no longer red.

It takes much to know you have
scaled the mountain, scarred yourself
with the ridges at your feet
and you have almost touched the horizon
where the sky bleeds black.
It takes a special pair of molten eyes
to see that untouched self
and to meet yourself on the other side
where the rivers flow no more.

That’s when you feel empowered,
that’s when you still feel whole. 

Menka Shivdasani is the author of four poetry collections, Frazil, Safe House  Nirvana at Ten Rupees and Stet. She is co-translator of Freedom and Fissures, an anthology of Sindhi Partition Poetry, published by the Sahitya Akademi. Menka’s work has been extensively represented in anthologies and literary magazines, in India and abroad. Her poem, “An Atheist’s Confessions,” has been included in the University of Mumbai S.Y.B.A. English textbook, Indian Literature in English: An Anthology, published in 2012. She is the editor of an anthology of women’s writing brought out by Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women (SPARROW). Menka is the Mumbai coordinator of the global movement, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, and a founder member of Asia-Pacific Writers and Translators Association. In 1986, she had played a key role in founding the Poetry Circle. She was conferred the inaugural WE- Eunice de Souza Poetry Award in Dec ‘20.