On Rebellion, by Prageeta Sharma.
(for Katy Lederer)
“It was not a romantic sentiment , nor self-determined; rather , it was embarrassing.
My love of spearheading, from introvert to extrovert,
from cowardice to consequence, from the enjambment to the unspecified dunce.
It was a sabotage, a reckless moment : a purulent, tawny decree.
All temptation puzzled me and drew me in.
I dropped out of a large life,
I flew over exams, I punched out breakfast teachers with lunch money,
toiling over the idea of belonging rather than over upward mobility.
I understood how power flung outward
into the troves of the cursed ( I felt troubled or cursed all of the time).
I wasn’t bearing oranges, limes, or even lemons.
All of it blurred together so that a mere suggestion made by
an outside force was something to be freely ignored.
I could nod off, I could misinterpret, it could be reconfigured as a negotiation.
The fog felt like an aphorism. Never lifting, always dull,
always an added pull. The tribunal cloud judged below, judged my direction.
There was lying, conning, faking, elucidating in order to get away with undoing.
I was interested in preserving yet I can’t tell you if it felt
sacred or befallen.
Your anxiety might have represented a crushing faith
or a character assassination, my own or someone else’s.
Or a lack of grip on reality : the wet rip of the grocery bags
all of it falling –
your body on all fours.
Accumulating soot upon retrieval.
There were downsides to feeling different so I huddled
in the corner (not a ball, not rocking). I felt friendless and yet social.
I felt no aptitude towards refining a skill.
However, words cut my brain into two brains with their precipice
their demarcations, their incisions (too strong a word).
They held me captive against their edge,
their influence : I felt like insinuating something delicate or dear.
Now- I am playing on- trying to pay attention to the collusion that I must
be playing over
and over in my mind, and it was my mind,
it needed me to leave everything outside, on the steps or in the sky,
to feign exhaustion in order to meet an aberration,
the one in the corner that felt large and carefree with its
own vernacular sprawled with whitewash on bricks or floors or that ghastly
far above that kept me standing very still but perhaps I wasn’t inactive,
I was just interpreting what had already been an assumed boundary,
immersed in its insularity and in what stuck to its roundedness.”
Prageeta Sharma was born in Framingham, Mass. in 1972. Her parents came from Jaipur. This poem is taken from The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, ed Jeet Thayil. Bloodaxe Books 2008. Reviewed at this link.