Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Vijay Seshadri


Illusions she didn’t know she had were shattered when
she saw in the text she was cleaning up—
the corrupt recension of the now lost text—
not the cypress of heaven
or the morphology of a recurring type
or the riverbank where a god dances
but her own self’s circumstances,

and not in the lover but the miserable sinner
who, as the poem trembled
to the death of its god,
drew back in fear
and so came to be noticed
by the demon who so resembled
her sworn enemy in her department,
with his bleak chin and his knowing look.
Though prodded by him she did write the book

that captured it all-god, demon, lover, avatar,
the ascension by night, the great battle,
the sobbing behind the ruined lattice—
and suspended it between her mother tongues
in the cat’s cradle of her scholarly apparatus—
made from shards, really, but mysteriously there.

© 1997