Usha Kishore

Photograph: Courtesy Isle of Man Newspapers

Usha Kishore

Usha Kishore is an Indian born British poet resident on the Isle of Man, where she teaches English at the Queen Elizabeth II High School. Usha’s poetry has been featured in international magazines including Aesthetica, The Frogmore Papers, Index on Censorship, The Stinging Fly, Poetry Salzburg Review, Bare Fiction Magazine, The Missing Slate and Asia Literary Review and anthologised by Macmillan, Hodder Wayland and Oxford University Press. She is the winner of the Exiled Writers Ink Poetry Competition in 2014 and the Pre-Raphaelite Poetry Prize in 2013. Usha’s third poetry collection is scheduled for Autumn 2017, from Eyewear Publishing, London.

Please visit Usha Kishore’s website: www.ushakishore.co.uk

 
Song of Medusa

          {inspired by the Hunting Dogs Mosaic: Medusa,
            Corinium Museum, UK}

J’ai perdu la beauté qui me rendit si vaine…

I fair-cheeked Medusa, offspring of a chthonic world,
weave into song the dire dirge of a damned gorgon,
pouring in slow anguish from my hissing hair of serpents,
once glorious flaxen curls, envious hope of many suitors.
I am heaven’s hatred, earth’s bane, temple’s sacrilege.

Upon my breast, I wear awful vipers, creatures of my rage;
betrayed by gods, I bear the cruel violence of my soul
and strike to stone with my blue-green eyes, piercing
as the owl’s glare, all men who wander into my wilderness.
What temple have I tarnished, what sanctity decried?

My womanhood deflowered, decapitated, sans voice,
save that of spirit; a virgin playground for the Lord
of the Seas, binding himself to my golden tresses. I am
the spite of goddesses, a victim of my own glory.
I am unholy violence, holy terror, profane priestess.

I am phallic mother; wild feminine relic, lost to
the world. I am the sad end of sacred female tribes,
guardians of shrines. I am castrated woman, my womb
filled with the demon desires of a wayward God.
I am thought defiled; thought reborn in eternal return.

I am the wingèd matriarch of darkness. As a ritual mask,
casting out the evil eye, I am engraved on this golden shield,
worn by a Goddess, who cursed me with hideous form.
I am the soul of Aegis, ageless, immortal, defiant; a hundred
golden tassels flutter from my head, reverberating in dragon roar.

I am female warrior, Athene’s flaming other, possessed
by battle frenzy. Guardian spirit of the underworld, I am
mosaicked talisman, destroyer and redeemer. My blood
flows in crimson coral flowers blooming in the Red Sea;
my offspring, Pegasus, wingèd stallion, fancy’s child.

J’ai perdu la beauté qui me rendit si vaine: I have lost the beauty that rendered me vain –
from the character Méduse in Philippe Quinault’s libretto for Persée (1682) by Jean-Baptiste Lully.

Acknowledging:

  • Pythian XII. Odes of Pindar
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses IV.706
  • Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes, and Archetypes, Routledge, 1996
  • Persée (1682) by Jean-Baptiste Lully
  • Aegis: the shield of Athena, sometimes depicted with the head of a gorgon. Virgil in the Aenid depicts Athena as wearing a breast plate with golden tassels, bearing the Gorgoneion (Medusa‘s head) in the central embossing.

(Published in the Corinium Museum, Cirencester UK – shortlisted for the Corinium Poetry Competition, 2015)

 
The Lament of Lamia

          {inspired by Lamia (second version)
                    by John William Waterhouse, 1909)

She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue…

Let me melt into this twilight pool, wither away
in dazzling lustre, vermillion spots, sapphire,
amethyst and rubious argent. Let me disintegrate
into peacock shades, wane like the silver moon,
inter-wreathed in phantasy and reason.

In a world of shadows, I sit ankle deep in gloom,
gazing in demure solitude, the gloomier tapestry
of my sensuous serpent shape – half woman,
half snake – a monster myth that breathes
in seductive hues. Upon my crest, I wear lost love
in wannish fire and glide back into my cursèd form,
dressing my misery in slithering magnificence.

I am no demon’s mistress, I am no demon’s self,
I am a feminine woe that once sought passion
in Faery Hall. Love glances from unlovely eyes
buried my beloved in his marriage robes. Real were
the unreal dreams I cherished, a mortal soul for
my immortal love. Now, I weep in flashed phosphor
and striking sparks, without one cooling tear. I convulse
in scarlet pain; my phantasy lost, my reason faded.

I still hear lustrous echoes of fairy music, from that
purple lined palace of sweet sin. I feel the fragrance
of myrrh and spiced wood that burn in the censers
of my rainbow heart that the dreary old man unweaved.
He was the ghost of reason, haunting my fairy dreams.
All my charms had to fly at his cold philosophy that
will even clip an angel’s wings. I emptied haunted air
and melted into shade and flame like glow. But, I am
no wretched lamia, vile wench, with brazen brows
and inglorious lips that smile. I am no awful rainbow
haunting the heavens. I am a virgin, purest lipped,
yet learnèd in the lore of love to my rainbow core.
I only conspired with a lusty, wingèd god to claim
my love, now cinders, ashes and dust; my spirit burning
in hell. Wily Cupid had fluttered his jealous wings
in cursèd roar at my mirrored paradise in Elysian shade.

My love was no deadly enchantment, nor passionate illusion.
It was the purest sentiment as orphic as the blue of the sky,
as delphic as the green of the ocean. But I have left
that banquet hall in haste and Lycius’s side. He lies cold
now, sans pulse, sans breath, sans life, empty of delight,
while I roam in desolate dole, where I will: through Nereids’
waves, through Thetis’ bower, where Bacchus drains his dregs
divine, stopping only by twilight pools to wash my woes.
No gods, no mortals, no sage men to haunt me here; they
have all vanished into the seamless white of light and I,
a wandering spirit in dusky realms, breathing melancholy
on flowering water weeds and floating lily pads.

Hermes, star of Lethe, will you halt the spin of time, for one
warm flushed moment? Will you unlock fancy’s casket
with your serpent rod and stolen light? Let me have once
more my immortal dream and haunted air? Let me have once
more a woman’s shape, charming as before! Let me reclaim
the Corinthian youth, back from death and Appolonius’s glare!

Notes

  • The lines – But, I am no wretched lamia, vile wench, with/ brazen brows and inglorious lips that smile – is an appropriation of the lines from Goethe’s Faust, translated by Taylor (1871): They are the Lamiae, wenches vile, / With brazen brows and lips that smile.
  • The quote at the beginning of the poem is from John Keats’s “Lamia”

(Winner of the Pre Raphaelite Poetry Prize, 2013 and published in The PRS Review, UK, 2014)

 
For other contributions by Usha Kishore, please follow the link below:

 
All poems on this post: © Usha Kishore
Photograph: Courtesy Isle of Man Newspapers
Published with the permission of Usha Kishore