Shanta Acharya

BIO

Shanta Acharya, born and educated in Cuttack, India, won a scholarship to Oxford, and was among the first batch of women admitted to Worcester College in 1979. A recipient of the Violet Vaughan Morgan Fellowship, she was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy for her work on Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1983. She was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of English and American Literature and Languages at Harvard University before joining an American investment bank in London in 1985. She has worked in the asset management industry since and has written extensively on the subject. The author of eleven books, her publications range from poetry, literary criticism and fiction to finance. Her latest is Imagine: New and Selected Poems (Harper Collins, India; 2017). Founder of Poetry in the House, Shanta hosted a series of monthly poetry readings at Lauderdale House, Highgate, in London from 1996-2015. She has twice served on the board of trustees of The Poetry Society as well as The Poetry School and the Arvon Foundation in the UK.

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THE PROPOSAL

I’ve always envied men who could watch their wives grow old.
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
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He knew how to count his blessings –
a middle-aged man who would not see

a child of his grow up, grow old,
though shepherding a good many others.

It was his wife he felt sorry for,
having to see her husband grow old, die

except he was waiting for her to happen
to him like a key dreaming of its lock.

When she told him he ought to marry her,
it was she he had been searching for,

he knew she knew it was his first time,
what it meant to love another human being.

Then I’ll see you tomorrow, she said,
and kept on walking as if it was nothing.

He told her she was right, he would marry her.
They both knew this love was no ordinary thing.

So many men and women spent their lives without
finding the truth about themselves or each other,

never experienced the most thrilling fact of life –

to love someone sometimes without knowing it,
to be woken to the wonder of this mystery.
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DAY THE CLOUDS CAME HOME

blowing open doors, ushering the sky in,
drenching us in a spray mist of hope,
a rainbow looking in on our courtyard,
and flowers on their knees, worshipping,

leaving us wondering how some waters
fall, some bend, curve, flow,
rise like incredible angels of hope
while others vanish like ghosts
into the earth, becoming one with the universe.

We were entranced with the miracle of water
not just the kind that roar in your ears
while flowing silently in your veins
or the transparent types – dew, sweat, rain,

glistening in the light, a shower of stardust,
not to mention the opaque introversion
of fog, mist, frost and snow –
fresh faced children fingering the fields.

It was the day her waters broke,
her body a reservoir bursting
and a thousand questions came home,
searching for answers, something to do with love –

a promise splashed across the horizon
turning into tears to brighten the eyes
holy water to leaven the soul, water that kissed our lips
leaving us laughing, crying –
in an astonishment of meaning.
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THE STOPPED CLOCK

There is something reassuring
about time standing still in this processional

of days – the hands of the clock not moving –
the present, polished, gold-plated

like the carriage clock that stopped for me.
Negotiating my way through a plethora

of things, relinquishing worldly possessions,
hoping to arrive at the essential me,

overwhelmed with that everything-must-go feeling –
clothes, bank statements, suffering.

Instinctively holding on to gifts from the past,
unable to let go of memories, my rosary of dreams.

Take away our belongings, and we barely survive,
take away our memories and we are nothing.
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AMONG THE IMMORTALS
I dream my painting and I paint my dream.
Vincent van Gogh
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Reflecting on life’s many false starts –
art dealer, teacher, lover, preacher – always the outsider,
fearful of failure, loss of face, faith, family,
except for brother Theo providing a reason for living
in sorrow yet ever joyful.

In the depths of darkness,
moments of clarity bridge the gap between art and reality.
Dwelling in possibility, awareness of the one true God
gives way to insight – quest for the light within all beings.

The idea at first vague until the initial impulse,
a scribble, takes form, becomes a sketch
and the sketch a painting – mastery of the thing
promising an unexpected flowering.

Brushstrokes come alive in a rapture of aseity,
crying out with creations of flesh and blood –
self-portraits breathing, original in their view of the infinite,
touch the heart of humanity, open a door to eternity,
walk among the immortals, communing with the light.

(From Imagine: New and Selected Poems, Harper Collins, India; 2017)

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WALL OR WINGS

A wall is an idea defining the limit of our perception.
Our skin is a living wall, each cell pulsating with vision,

tells us who we are. Invisible walls protect us.
The earth’s atmosphere wraps it in a shawl of gases.

It is not for nothing homes need walls, niches, arches,
doors, windows for dreams, laughter, disappointments.

Walls within walls are pilgrim souls, keeper of secrets.

Walls revel in disguises, come in many shapes and sizes,
prefer to remain anonymous, take several aliases.

Being a wall means perpetually adjusting your vision,
yet a wall is never beyond redemption.

When a wall lies between you and your dreams,
turn it into something else, let it take wings.

(From Imagine: New and Selected Poems, Harper Collins, India; 2017)

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